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Garmin Forerunner 230 & 235 In-Depth Review


It’s been almost exactly a month since Garmin announced their lineup of fall running watches, including three new units: The Forerunner 230, 235, and 630.  Each of those units replacing previous iterations of the FR220, 225, and 620.  The FR230 and FR235 were unique though in that this time around they got pretty significant feature updates, bringing them far more in line with the FR620 of yesteryear, than other mid-range watches.  Meanwhile, the FR235 also got a new optical sensor – this one developed fully in-house by Garmin.

This review will focus on the FR230 & FR235.  While next week I’ll publish a review of the FR630.  The only difference between the FR230 and FR235 is the optical sensor in the FR235 – that’s it.  All other baseline features are the same.

For this review I was sent both a FR230 and FR235 to borrow from Garmin.  Both are final production units, and this review is based on final production firmware (3.10+).  After this review, I’ll be sending back all the demo units as usual to Garmin and getting my own – just the way I roll.

With that intro out of the way, let’s dive into things.


Since this is a dual FR230 & FR235 product review, it would mean I have two boxes and thus two unboxing sections.  However, in this case I’m temporarily going to provide you with a FR230 unboxing, and then follow-up with the official FR235 unboxing photos at a slightly later date (a week or so).  The reason being simple: The FR230 arrived boxed, while the FR235 (final production unit) arrived naked in order to get it to me quicker.  Don’t worry, it’s the same unit you have.

As for the differences between the two – well, one includes a HR strap (if on bundle) and one doesn’t…and the end.  But let’s start at the beginning, with the box:


Once we crack it open we’ll find this small assortment of goodness worth of parts:



Removing the plastic, we get this:


Ultimately, that comes down to four things: The FR230, the FR230 charger, the HRM4 heart rate strap, and some paper manual stuff.

The charging cable used on the FR230 is the same as on the FR235 and FR630.  It is not compatible with any other Garmin units (I tried, really, don’t do it – bad things happen due to the pins being different).



For the HR strap, note that it’s only included on the FR230 bundle including the heart rate strap.  If you buy a FR235 you won’t get one (you’ll get an optical sensor).  And if you buy just the base FR230 – again, no strap.  In any case, here’s the strap (HRM4):



The above strap does NOT have Running Dynamics (that’s the HRM-RUN & HRM-TRI).  It doesn’t matter though what strap you pair to the FR230/FR235, it won’t read Running Dynamics data from it.

Next we’ve got the unit itself, first the FR230:


Then the FR235 with it.  The easiest way to tell my two units apart is that the black FR230 has a white trim, whereas the black FR235 lacks such trim.



With everything unboxed, let’s compare sizes.

Weight & Size Comparisons:

Next, let’s take a look at the weight.  The FR230 & FR235 are very similar in weight, only 1g apart! The FR230 weighs 41g, and the FR235 weighs 42g.



If you compare that to the TomTom Spark, it weighs in at 47g (depending on band):


Next, here’s a side-profile view of many modern GPS running watches on the market.  From left to right we’ve got:


From left to right: Garmin Epix, Garmin FR920XT, Suunto Traverse, Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Polar V800, Garmin FR225, Garmin FR630, Garmin FR235, TomTom Spark, Garmin FR25.


So basically, I’ve pretty much showed what we already knew – the FR235 is a super-slim GPS running watch that doesn’t weigh much.



To start a run, you’ll press the power button once, which triggers a screen enabling you to select an activity profile (note though, in this most recent public beta, this behavior changes slightly to minimize one of these steps).  It’s here that you’ll select to Run outdoors or indoors:


Note that on the FR230/235, you get four activity profiles: Run Indoors, Run Outdoors, Bike Outdoors, and ‘Other’.  On the FR230/235 you cannot rename these profiles, or create new ones.  On the FR630 however, you can create your own.


Once you’ve selected one, the unit goes off and finds satellite coverage.  In most cases, if you’ve been in the same spot as previous and downloaded the satellite cache (happens automatically with the Garmin Connect and Garmin Express apps), this usually takes under 15 seconds.

Once that’s done, it’ll bring you to the main data page (you can still see satellite status up top until you start).

These data pages are totally customizable, with up to four data fields each.


You get a bunch of pages, some tweakable, some not.  Here’s the rundown:

Customizable Data Page 1 (1-4 fields)
Customizable Data Page 2 (1-4 fields)
Heart Rate Screen (Split: HR bpm & HR zone)
HR Zone Gauge (a little gauge of your HR)
Clock Page (current date/time)

Each of these can be enabled/disabled as you see fit.  Here’s what they all look like:

As far as sensors goes, the FR230 & FR235 both support connecting to ANT+ heart rate sensors, ANT+ footpods, and ANT+ cycling speed/cadence sensors (more on the bike stuff later).  For the FR235, you can choose whether to use the internal sensor, or an external HR sensor.  Note however, that at present the footpod is really only useful for indoors, and not outdoors – since you can’t select to use it for pace outdoors.

With that all set, let’s start the run.  At this point, the unit will show you current pace from GPS as well as distance and any other metrics you choose.


The unit includes basics like Auto Pause (which pauses the watch recording when you stop at a traffic light), Auto Lap (to automatically create laps at a distance of your choosing), and alerts.  Standard alerts can be configured for Time, Pace, Distance, Calories, Heart Rate, or Run/Walk.  Additionally, you can create custom alerts to remind you to Drink, Eat, Turn Around, or ‘Go Home’.  These custom ones essentially work on a time/distance parameter – such as ‘every 10 minutes drink’, or ‘go home after 30 mins’.

In the event you want to do a custom workout, you’ve got a few options.  One way is to create a workout on Garmin Connect (using a desktop computer), and then transfer it to the watch using either USB or your phone.  In this case, you can create complex custom workouts like the below:


Additionally, you can also create an interval workout using a more simplified interval option on the unit itself.  This allows you to program various steps in without too much complexity:


Now for the most part all of this stuff I’ve talked about to date is standard stuff for Garmin running units.

Where it starts to get interesting is new features like the ‘Finish Time’ estimator.  This feature will automatically estimate how much time you have remaining until you hit a goal distance (such as 5K, 10K, etc…).  You can enter a custom distance in as well as standard ones, using miles or kilometers.  It’ll simply figure out what your estimated time of completion is based on how fast you’re running thus far.



Next, we’ve got some post-run metrics.  The FR230 & FR235 both support VO2Max, even using the optical sensor (a rarity in the industry).  In this case, the unit will give you a VO2Max value after each run (if it changes).  It’ll also plot this online.  Right now the FR235 estimates my VO2Max at 55, which is a touch bit below where I’ve had it measured previously.  However, at the same time, the FR630 is measuring it also at 55 right now.  Note though that historically these features can take many weeks – specifically of harder runs – to even out on the watch as it learns from you.


Similarly, I’ve been doing tests using a FR230 and FR630 with HR straps, while also using the FR235 with the optical sensor – looking at recovery time.  IN most cases, they’re within an hour of each other (even if I think they’re a bit high overall).

Additionally, post-workout you’ll also get a TE (Training Effect) score too, if you look at the summary information:


Again, this is also listed online too on the Garmin Connect page (different run below):


So what about GPS accuracy?  So far so good.  You’ve got two options when it comes to GPS, one is to use just the default GPS option, and the second is to enable GLONASS.  Doing so would take a slight hit on battery (usually about 20%).  For me, I’m OK with that.  I’ve been doing a bunch of runs in/around the city (and in snowy weather), without seeing any real issues.  For example, here’s going right along buildings without any GPS variance:


Here’s an example from actually earlier tonight where four GPS watches all slightly struggled through just one 100m section of the run – though the FR235 and Ambit3 tracked the least problematic until the turn, though then temporarily seemed offset for another 100m across the bridge before joining back up.  To be fair, this is one of the hardest little sections of roadway I have around my home, since it’s a tiny road between two sets of tall buildings.


The rest of the run was largely spot-on between the units, or within a meter or two of each other.



If you’d like to look at a few different GPS track comparisons, I’ve made a small table to allow you to dive into them below, using comparisons as well:

(Table to be uploaded Thursday Nov 27th, though files available now here)

Again, I’m not seeing anything that sticks out as concerning here (I’m also not doing a lot of trail running either right now, so if that’s more your thing you may need to wait and see what others say).

Finally, note one exciting feature on both the FR230 & FR235 is the ability to enable 1-second recording, as opposed to smart recording.  That’ll help make your tracks look smoother (even if the distance under the hood is still theoretically the same).  You can enable that in the settings menu.



Next, the Garmin FR230 & FR235 has a cycling mode that supports ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensors.  This means that you can pair it to any ANT+ Speed-only, Cadence-only, or Speed/Cadence combo sensor.  It does not support Bluetooth Smart sensors (of any type).

I’m not going to spend a huge amount of time in this section because it’s primarily a running watch, not a cycling watch.


The main use for a cycling mode on the FR230/235 is simply that it categorizes your rides correctly for upload to Garmin Connect.  This ensures things like PR’s (Personal Records) aren’t all dorked up on the running front, from cycling activities (such as fastest 5K times).

In my riding with the FR235, it works just fine as a record-keeper of where you rode.  Both it and the multiple Edge units came up with near identical GPS results:

FR235: 25.61mi
Edge 520 #1: 25.66mi
Edge 520 #2: 25.63mi
Edge 520 #3: 25.68mi
Edge 810: 25.54mi

And afterwards, if you look on Garmin Connect, you’ll get speed/cadence data as you’d expect from any other Garmin device.  This also includes speed, heart rate, distance and a map of where you went (here’s a link to one of my activities):


Note that for HR accuracy on the FR235 using the optical sensor, see my optical sensor accuracy section a bit a later in the post.

Finally, note that there’s a wee bit of confusion regarding whether or not there is or is not an Indoor Cycling mode on the FR230/235.  I’ve discussed this in my ‘Bugs, Quirks & Tidbits’ section at the end of the review.  If things change there – I’ll note that here as well.  Failing changes there, you can always just turn off the GPS to use the unit indoors.

The FR235 Optical Sensor – Background & Rebroadcasting:


Without question the most important difference between the FR230 and FR235 is the optical heart rate sensor stuffed into the back of the FR235.  This would mark Garmin’s 3rd product with an optical sensor, following the Forerunner 225 earlier this summer, and the Vivosmart HR (announced just a few days from the FR235).

In the case of the FR225, it leveraged an optical sensor package licensed from Mio.  Whereas for the FR235 and Vivosmart HR, Garmin decided to make their own optical sensor, which they’ve branded ‘Elevate’.  While the sensors between the FR235 and Vivosmart HR are similar, there are subtle differences to the surrounding units – making performance quite different.

Anytime a company introduces their own optical HR sensor, I shudder.  Because the vast majority of companies screw it up, or don’t spend sufficient time testing.  This is even more true in the athletic space (versus just resting HR sensors).  Thus, it’s probably the most important thing I tested in the FR235, and where I spent the majority of my time digging into results.


The sensor includes three green LED’s, which record not just workouts but 24×7 HR as well.  In that mode, the unit samples at a variable rate dependent on what you’re doing.  More activity means more HR data, while less activity means it reduces the HR sampling to save battery life.  Meanwhile, in workout mode it records data at industry standard once per second (1s).

This HR is displayed just like it would be from a HR strap.  Once you’re in an activity, there’s no difference there:


Further, outside of the workout mode as noted the unit is continually sampling your HR dependent on activity.  But I dive into this more during the ‘Activity Tracker’ section a bit later.

Lastly, the FR235 can have its HR signal ‘rebroadcasted’ to other ANT+ capable devices.  The unit rebroadcasts the HR over ANT+, identically to that of a heart rate strap.  In effect, it turns your FR235 into a HR sensor for other devices – such as a Garmin Edge or a Recon Jet HUD unit.  It does NOT broadcast your HR over Bluetooth Smart.

To enable this, you’ll start from the main time page and press down till you see this HR page:


Then, you’ll HOLD the up button down for a few seconds, which gives you this little nugget:


After selecting it, you’ll see your HR and time broadcast for all the world to pickup:


If you wander to another device – like an Edge series one, you can search for the HR signal and find it.  And then boom – HR on the Edge, from the FR235:


Note that in this mode you cannot start an activity.  It’s only offered as a standalone option, which kinda makes sense.  It’s sorta silly to record two activities of the same type to Garmin Connect.  Though, I’m sure there’s edge cases that make sense too – such as the Recon Jet example where you want to record your bike ride on the FR235, while also getting HR up to the Recon Platform.  Hopefully they’ll look at allowing/enabling a broadcast mode during a recorded workout as well.

As for signal strength, I haven’t seen any dropouts when using it on my wrist, paired to an Edge cycling computer on my bike (a relatively short distance).  Additionally, in looking at signal strength as measured by a NPE WASP unit, things look on-par with a Garmin HRM4  Both were at the same distance from the WASP (which was on my handlebars), with one measuring –32db (HRM4) and one at –28db (FR235).  The numbers are displayed negative, the closer to zero the better.  Of course, even just moving an inch or two causes the numbers to fluctuate a bit – so don’t overthink the slight difference there – it’s just where the pic was taken.


For fun, I then put the WASP module outside the room and half-way up the stairs, to see how well it’d pick up things.  Sure enough, no problems with either displaying (now at –52 & –46):


I haven’t done as much with re-broadcasting as just native recording though in my testing, so it’s possible there’s some edge case I haven’t hit yet.  Still, things look positive there from a functionality perspective.  Of course, whether or not the data is terribly useful (i.e. accurate) in cycling is a totally different matter.

The FR235 Optical Sensor – Workout Accuracy:


Now that we’ve got the optical sensor background pieces out of the way, let’s dive straight into accuracy testing.  Because honestly, that’s all most of you care about anyway.  For accuracy testing I’ve been using a production unit on production firmware for the past 2-3 weeks, with near-daily workouts of both cycling and running.  I have not yet tried it swimming (since it’s not a swimming watch).

In my case, my testing setup is pretty straightforward, I’ve got the following on most activities:

A) Garmin FR235 (Optical HR Sensor) – Right Wrist
B) TomTom Spark or Polar A360 (Optical HR Sensors) – Left Wrist
C) Garmin HRM-TRI & HRM-RUNv2 HR Chest Straps (Upper chest)
D) Stryd Power & HR Chest Strap (Lower Chest)
E) Scosche Rhythm+ Optical HR Sensor (Upper right arm)

Note, in the above test I’m careful to not put two optical HR sensors on the same wrist area.  This can impact accuracy adversely for some sensors – so I don’t want to impact results adversely that wouldn’t otherwise be normal.

For data collection, the three non-wrist-worn units were funneled to a variety of FR920XT, Suunto Ambit3, and FR630 units that I usually wore in a SPIBELT.  These were purely there for HR data collection, and not GPS accuracy data.  In the case of cycling, most of the data was instead funneled to Garmin Edge units for record-keeping.  Finally, all of this data is available at the end of the post for your own poking.

Ok, enough talk – let’s walk through results.  First up is a hill repeat session I did back a few weeks ago.


Below is the key for the above.  Note, those are not averages, but just wherever my curser was at that time.  What you see above is that things track very well for Mr. Purple (the FR235).  The brief issue you see at the start with the Scosche is because the strap caught/pulled loose on my clothing and I had to fix it while running – so it was flapping around.


The only issue you see on the Garmin FR235 side is some delay on the HR recovery as I ran down a hill.  You see a small hint of this again later in the run too.  But otherwise, it’s pretty much locked on the other units.


Next, let’s look at another hill repeat session I did – this one up in northern Finland in the snow.  I’ll let you take this in for a second.


So yeah.  Basically, what you see is that things are all good on the Garmin FR235 front until the recovery of each hill repeat (the part where I run downhill).  So the FR235 nails the plot on the rise, but stumbles on the recovery.  This particular hill was steep, and I was running in YakTraxs on ice, which meant that my stride rate actually increased a bit.  What do we see then?  The FR235 locks onto that instead of HR.  In order to ‘reset’ it I basically stopped walking before starting my next repeat, which you see does the trick.

Now for fun, I then did a 10-minute sustained tempo portion after that.  The unit tracks beautifully there – really nailing it.

So, to test my theory about the hill, the short hill from the main road down to our little snowy cabin was also equally steep.  Sure enough, it did the exact same thing there when I ran the same way down it.


Now what’s interesting, is that in a later run down the same hill (you’ll see it two examples from now), I ran down the hill faster – so with a longer stride.  That’s because I wasn’t in the recovery portion of an interval.  When I had that longer/more natural stride – it had no problems.  Just like it didn’t really have any major problems on my other hill repeats before in Paris.

Next, let’s look at a ‘simple’ run.  This was basically just me wandering along at an easy Z2 pace, with a clean build.  I finished with some short sprints.  As you see here, the FR235 is kinda really ‘sharp’, as in, jagged.


Here, let me zoom in a bit to explain.  See how generally smooth the red & green lines are?  Then look at the teal FR235 line (or the TomTom Spark line) – they’re much more variable.


Still, despite that – it’s generally quite close most of the time – so for the above run, I’m content with the results, even if a tiny bit more variable (which they likely can easily address).

Next, let’s look at a run I did tonight.  If I had to give this run a name, it’d basically be a “Let’s Hose It Up” test run.  Essentially, optical sensors usually have issues with hard and fast pace changes.  So after a short warm-up, I basically did some all-out chunks for 1-2 minutes.  The average pace for these sections was about 5:35/mile (3:28/km).


During the warm-up, all four units tracked fairly well.  However, what you see is the first and second intervals throw the Scosche for a loop, but also confused the Garmin FR235 too.  The HRM4 and HRM-TRI had no problems tracking identically.

The third interval though the Scosche got the plot, but the FR235 struggled until about half-way through.  Then finally, after that it got all happy and tracked the rest of the run quite nice.  This could be simply because it took that long to get blood-flow up enough on a cooler evening for the optical sensors to catch-up.  Yet, I didn’t tend to see such issues in the Arctic.  The question is how often you do all-out intervals, and would it matter?  As you’ll see in a moment, when I did those all-out sprint sections later in the run after more warm-up, it handled quite nicely.

Here’s my final Arctic run.  In this case I basically warmed up nice and easy and kept it steady for about 30 minutes.  Then I made for a hard run up a steep hill, before recovering briefly.  From there, I did 30×30’s (30-seconds hard sprint, 30 seconds walk).  A great way to test/look at recovery.

The guide for this in blue is actually both Scosche & FR235 (colors were auto-picked unfortunately), though thankfully it didn’t matter on this graph.  The green is the Polar A360, and the red is the HRM-RUNv2 strap.  Not that the colors matter, the FR235 nailed this easily.  Not sure what the A360 was doing.


Here’s a closer look at the 30/30 portion.  Again, green is the Polar A360, the others are the HRM-RUN HR strap, the Garmin FR235, and the Scosche Rhythm+ optical.


Very solid on that, despite the cold weather and the watch being partially exposed.

Next, on cycling.  It’s outdoors that’s challenging for optical sensors on the wrist.  This is because you’re ‘straining’ your wrist gripping the handlebars, and then any road vibrations nail the watch.  And sure enough, it’s hard on the FR235 (sorta like I saw on the TomTom Spark sensor).  It did better than the TomTom, but it’s super-jumpy.  For example, in the below data plot I even added a 3s smoothing to it, just to make it easier to find the two lines given how jumpy it was.  Here, compare before and after smoothing:

Before graph smoothing:


After smoothing:


What you notice is that while it gets the general concept if you’re looking at it from 50,000ft.  But as you zoom in you realize there’s just a lot of cases where it doesn’t track quite as fast, or is much more variable, for example these sprints (this is showing some 12 minutes of time too!).  That’s examples where things are dramatically different for 20-30 seconds at a time.


So where does that leave things overall?  First off, keep in mind I usually use these sections to highlight ‘problem children’ sections, yet the vast majority of the run was otherwise fine.

So for the running side I’m giving it a very similar grade right now to that of the TomTom Spark: B+.  There are cases where both units trip-up a bit.  In most cases, those aren’t deal breakers, but I expect/hope that Garmin can tweak them over the coming months as they get more familiar with their own tech and the nuances.  Some of the issues I had weren’t totally reproducible (for example, the downhill section on one of those hill repeats – but not other hill repeats).  I probably wouldn’t use the FR235 as my primary HR sensor for cycling right now though – that’s just a bit too rough.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well, more details here.)

Activity Tracker:


Like all recent Garmin wearables, the FR230/FR235 acts as an activity tracker as well.  This means it’ll track your steps, calories, distance walked, and sleep.  The functionality on the FR230/FR235 in these core areas is basically the same as other Garmin devices.  So for example, you can tap down twice to get to the activity tracker widget page:


This shows your total steps for the day, progress towards a goal, as well as distance and calories.


Additionally, see the red bar above? That’s the move bar – or basically the lazy bar.  If that bar is filled up it means that you haven’t moved in an hour.  Your goal in life is to keep that move bar from chirping at you at the end of the hour.  You’ll do this by walking approximately 100m over the course of that time period.  You can turn off the inactivity alerts if you’d like.


Next, you’ve got sleep metrics, which occur automatically with the FR230/235.  You fall asleep, it records it.  Garmin has made good strides over the past year in this area, adding much more depth than it did in the past.  The only thing you’ll need to set (which happens automatically when you pair the watch to your phone) is the estimated sleep times.  I just set mine randomly to 2AM-7AM, but from what I’ve seen it has no impact on the unit’s ability to estimate sleep.  You don’t manually trigger it on the watch anymore.  Instead, afterwards on Garmin Connect you’ll see sleep metrics:


Finally, on the FR235-only, you’ve got the ability to display and record 24×7 heart rate – more commonly called continuous HR.  The main benefit of this (aside from geek factor) is to track resting HR.

You can access your instant/continuous HR anytime you’d like by just tapping the down button once, which shows this page:


On the upper left you’ll see your current HR, while on the upper right you’ve got your resting HR for the day.  Along the bottom is a graph for the last four hours, plus the high/lows during that time period.

The unit doesn’t sample or record this data at a straight rate of X times per minute/hour/etc, but rather does so variably, based on activity.  You’ll notice that if you’re sitting still, it’ll sample far less often than if you’re up walking around.  You can see this below where this morning I was sitting uninterrupted from roughly 8:45AM till 10:25AM (after riding cross-town round 8:25AM), so much so that there’s a few gaps in there where it didn’t sample at all.  Yet as soon as I moved about – such as going for a short break/walk at 10:25AM, or my pedal home at 12:15PM, it shows more variability:


Back on the watch, you can also show your 7-day resting HR averages, which is (in my opinion) one of the best ways to see if you’re about to struggle in training.


For example, I know my resting HR numbers well enough to know that if they rise above about 44-46bpm, I’m probably about to get sick – or having trouble recovering from travel.  In the 50-52bpm range, I start to see my workouts diminish.  Though oddly, some days appear to be missing from GC, despite showing up on the watch.


Of course, every person is different here.  My resting HR is very low – 39-41BPM is the norm for me, and these numbers align quite nicely with what multiple other devices have shown for me in the past (including just simple HR straps for testing these values).

Again, the continuous HR options are only found on the FR235 and not on the FR230.  You CANNOT pair another HR sensor to the FR230 to try and get the same features – no such pairing option exists.  It’s only with the optical sensor.

Oh – one final interesting tidbit, you can indeed wear the watch while charging it at the same time, such as this:


It might be a bit finicky to do this while running since the clamp design isn’t super-secure, but it would probably work if you were careful about how you arranged it.  The unit DOES record during GPS activities while plugged into a USB battery pack.  It does NOT record if plugged into a computer.  Additionally, it does NOT record continuous HR while plugged in (likely because that lets in too much light).

Smartphone Notifications & Connect IQ Support:


Like activity tracking, smartphone notifications and Connect IQ support is present on most Garmin wearables these days – and the FR230 & FR235 is no exception.  In fact, this is probably one of the biggest changes from the FR220/FR225 – since it lacks these features.

To start, on smartphone notifications the unit uses the standard notification control panels from iOS and Android.  So any notifications you setup on those devices are piped to the FR230/FR235.  They’ll show up instantly on your watch, vibrating or beeping depending on what you’ve selected.


You can dismiss these notifications or open them up for more detail.


Further, you can access existing notifications through the widgets menu, in case you want to catch-up on previously displayed ones.


Notifications do NOT require the Garmin Connect app be open.  However, for some other smartphone features like accessing your calendar, showing the weather, finding your phone, or syncing data, that does require the Garmin Connect app be open somewhere in the background of your phone.  Here’s shots from all of those pages:

On the notifications front, I haven’t had any problems with the unit ‘forgetting’ my phone – it’s been working great the last few weeks for me.  I’m not sure if that’s improvements in the Bluetooth stack on the iPhone, improvements from the Garmin side on the device, or just plain luck.  But either way – I’m happy.

Next, we’ve got Connect IQ.  This allows you to download various widgets, watch faces, data fields, and apps to your FR230/235.  This in turn enables 3rd party developers to create things/apps for your watch that can extend/replace functionality of the device.  I talk a ton more about that in these posts here.

In my testing, I tend to keep things fairly vanilla during the initial period (sans-Connect IQ), so in the event something goes wrong, I know it’s definitely a Garmin problem versus an app problem.

Backlight and Display:


[New Section] There’s been a few questions and comments on the backlight and the display, both here after posting the review and on the Garmin Forums.  So, I figured I’d take a few photos and give my thoughts.

First, remember that anytime you see photos of watch backlights – the exact luminosity of that display really comes down to the photographer.  I can make any display look as bright or poor as I want merely by changing settings on the camera.  That said, typically I just leave the settings largely on automatic.  In this case, the only thing I tweaked after the fact in Lightroom was the white balance of the photo (in total) to get rid of the yellow glow. That’s it.

First, the photo you see above is all three watches (FR230, FR235, FR630), simply with their backlights enabled.  On one of the units I put it at the pending/watch display screen.  This means that it has white text on a black background.  The other two are on usual mid-run screens with data fields.

Below is the same three watches, this time all lined up and all in running mode.  From left to right they are: FR235, FR630, FR230


Note, I’ve seen some photos/videos of folks posting pictures of a backlight of various units during daylight – I’m not sure I totally understand the point there to be honest.  Said differently: Try it in the dark, you know, where the light is for.

Finally, I zoomed back and took another photo, this time adding in a Garmin Fenix3 for comparison.  As you can see, it’s brighter – so much so that it ‘blows out’ from a brightness standpoint.  The rest of the photo is brighter than the others because there’s simply more light in the photo for the sensor to capture.


So is it bright enough to run with? Yes, absolutely.  Approximately 80-90% of my runs with the unit were in the dark.  It’s just that time of year for running.

Is it as bright as the Fenix3, or even the FR620?  No.  But it also doesn’t matter.  It’s perfectly readable, and those watches are what I’d describe as ‘excessively bright’.  Yes, it can be nice to have such a bright display if you’re trying to use it as a flashlight, but when I’m running, there’s no tangible benefit to that extra brightness.  I can see the display just fine with the current brightness state.  Some would even argue it makes it harder to see the text.

Of course, any brightness comparisons can be a personal thing and differ from person to person, but it’s not really something that bothers me on any of these units.

Bugs, Quirks, and Oddities


The FR230 & FR235 aren’t without their oddities.  Most of these are fairly subtle, yet others are more concerning.  Here’s a round-up of where things stand.  If/when these get addressed, I’ll note it accordingly:

– FR235 Battery Life: It’s bad.  Really bad.  It’s about 2-2.5 days for me, using the optical HR sensor on its usual continuous mode (24×7).  It’s supposed to be 9-11 days.  Garmin says they’re aware of the issues and are working on it, with hopes to issue a firmware update in a few weeks.  I’m sorta realistic though that something will have to give here – such as reduced sampling rates.  Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but it’s a pretty big jump to increase battery life 4x over what’s there today without any negative impacts. Note: For some users, they are seeing more like 5-7 days.

– FR235 optical HR is a bit…jaggy: For lack of better term, perhaps spikey, the optical HR signal seems to be a bit non-smoothed.  It’s rare that I ask for something to have more smoothing, but it seems like that might be called for here.  I’m sure there are other ways they can address it, but it’s just a touch bit too variable.  This isn’t a deal breaker right now, but is something they should address.

– FR235 optical HR quirks with fast pace shifts and some hill sections: As noted in the accuracy section.

– Currently within structured workouts (those that you create online and download to your watch), the unit fails to alert on pace based sections of a custom workout (high/low alerts). Fixed in firmware update on Feb 25th, 2016

– A few minor quirks, such as if you power off the unit temporarily (i.e. to reboot), it’ll actually fail to show the 4hr continuous HR graph upon powering back up (such as faintly seen in the background of the bug photo above).

Next, is the curious case of the indoor bike mode.  This appears to be available on some people’s units, yet not other units.  When I asked Garmin about this yesterday, they said it wasn’t a feature they planned on offering – yet it’s clearly on existing production units shipped to real customers.  Oddly enough, my unit doesn’t have it as an activity profile I can enable (simply missing).  I’ve re-checked in again today asking them to provide some clarification.

This mode was simply just like the outdoor cycling mode, but indoors.  The only real purpose here is to automatically categorize the workouts on Garmin Connect as indoor cycling.  You can otherwise replicate the same functionality by just turning off the GPS in cycling mode.  Still, it has some benefit (and matches functionality seen on cheaper watches from TomTom and Polar).

Finally, we get to one particularly sore point – which is Garmin’s inability to get their specifications correct on their own website.  Since announcement, the Garmin has listed Virtual Racer as a feature on the FR230/235.  Yet, it’s not present.  When I asked Garmin about this yesterday morning, they noted it was a mistake and would be removed shortly.  As of this morning, it was still present.


Now, you may think this would be a minor mistake if not for the fact that it’s been there a month!  Further, if this had been the first instance of it occurring, I’d be less concerned.  But almost every product Garmin has released in the last year has had Garmin.com specifications errors that takes days to weeks to clean up.  Quite honestly, this isn’t very hard.  All they have to do is have a short meeting in a conference room with the web content folks and the product team folks and just scroll down the page and triple-check everything.  It would take perhaps 10-15 mins to go through all 3-4 pages.

So yes, this is a clear ‘calling them out’ moment on repeated errors that are so easy to fix, yet significantly impact the consumer if they’re looking for that feature after purchase.  In this case, Garmin says there are no plans to include the feature in the FR230/235.

Product Comparisons:

Like all products I’ve reviewed, you’ll find the FR230 & FR235 in the product comparison tool/database.  This means you can mix and match features against other products I’ve reviewed or used.  In the case of below, I’ve placed the FR225, FR230, FR235, and TomTom Spark all on the table for comparison.  But you can easily mix and match your own comparison table right here.

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 15th, 2019 @ 4:23 pmNew Window
Price$299$249$249$149-$199 (Features Vary)
Product Announcement DateMay 12th, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Sept 3rd, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJuly 2015November 2015November 2015October 1st, 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 Meters50 Meters50 Meters50m
Battery Life (GPS)7-10 hours16 hoursUp to 16 hoursUp to 11 hours (varies)
Recording IntervalSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-second & Smart1-second & Smart1s
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYes, 7 daysYesYes3 days
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreatYes
Backlight GreatnessGreatGoodGoodGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYesYesNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Can control phone musicYesYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoYes
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)NoYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesNo
Group trackingNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for cyclingBarely (Speed mode only)YesYesYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)No (Can use internal accelerometer)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoYesYesNo
Race PredictorNoYesYesNo
Recovery AdvisorNoYesYesNo
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYesNo
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for swimmingNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)Yes
Openwater swimming modeN/AN/AN/ANo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingN/AN/AN/AYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/AN/AN/ANo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor Drill ModeN/AN/AN/ANo
Indoor auto-pause featureN/AN/AN/ANo
Change pool sizeN/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool LengthsN/AN/AN/A15m-50m
Ability to customize data fieldsN/AN/AN/AYes
Can change yards to metersN/AN/AN/AYes
Captures per length data - indoorsN/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor AlertsN/AN/AN/AGoals only
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoSorta
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYesNo
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesYesNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)nONoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoYesYEsNo
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startNoYesYesNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Compass TypeN/AN/AN/ANone
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesNoYEsYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNONo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNONo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNONo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNONo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNONo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)YesNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingnONoNONo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNOYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNOYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNONo, has internal accelerometer
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNONo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNONo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoYES (TEMPE)YES (TEMPE)No
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsNoTBDTBDNo
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressMySports Connect
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectTomTom MySports
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Remember, you can mix and match your own comparison table here in the product comparison database.



Overall I think the FR230 & FR235 may be the best bang for your buck running-specific watches that Garmin has released to date – even if there are still some minor kinks to work out on the optical HR pieces.  If you look at the FR230 for example, it’s taking almost everything the FR620 had (except Running Dynamics) and porting it into a product slightly more than half the price of the higher end watches.  And while Running Dynamics may be geeky-interesting, I don’t find them that interesting long term.

When it comes to the optical sensor on the FR235, from my testing it generally works quite well in normal runs, though there were a few edge cases where I managed to trick it briefly (such as the snowy hill descent, and the ‘Hose it up’ test run).  Even when befuddled, it does seem to realize it, and snap back onto the right track.  I suspect like most optical sensors it may be a bit of time before it’s 100% spot-on.  Having seen the progression at various points over the past two months, I’m pretty optimistic about how much progress they’ve made on that front.

As for whether or not the FR235 will become my daily running watch? Hard to say, I think if they can work out some of the optical HR kinks, then it probably will.  I don’t think I’d have any problems using it for long runs, and tempo runs – it worked well there.  Even if they didn’t work out the kinks, then the FR230 would most definitely fit my bill.  I tend to like lighter running watches over bigger ones (i.e. FR920XT/Fenix3), but that’s more a personal preference.  And as nice as the FR630 may be, I’ve gotta say the buttons on the FR230/235 are just easier for me going into winter (than a touch screen).

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Garmin Forerunner 230 (select drop-down for colors/bundles)
Garmin Forerunner 235 (select drop-down for colors)

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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.

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  1. Darryl

    Ray, thanks for the comprehensive review! Been refreshing your site a couple of times in the last hour in anticipation of this review. 🙂

  2. Brody

    Thanks so much for the great review.

    So, the 235 with the optical sensor weighs less than the 230?

    • Guillaume

      No it is clearly a mistake when you look at the pictures. It should be “The FR230 weighs 41g, and the FR235 weighs 42g.”

    • Brody

      Thanks. Ordered through clever training link and DCRVIP. Can’t wait to get it and out of my Vivoactive. We are ok now but we had a rough first few months. Early adopters curse….

      Quick question, what is it like to wear the 235 all day? Does the HR node become bothersome? I’ve tried one on for a few minutes, but that couldn’t tell me. Without trying both I feel the 225 with the rubber ring would be more comfortable.

    • Brody

      Found a computer and was able to Ctrl F my answer. Ill post it here if anyone else wonders this close to the top.

      Reply David
      I can’t feel the sensor bump at all. When worn normally during the day the bump leaves no mark on your skin but when I run and make the watch quite tight it will leave an impression. At no time did I feel it or did watch feel different to me than a flat bottomed watch.

      Reply DC Rainmaker
      November 26, 2015 at 9:08 am #55

      I’m with David, I don’t feel it at all.

  3. Ben_i

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for another great review and Garmin leave me as confused as ever! A few questions given that this is mainly a running watch:

    – Have you tried the indoor treadmill mode? what is the distance/pace measurement like with internal cadence and can you set custom stride length?
    – Have you tried with the Stryd power meter? is is possible?

    I had dismissed this watch as a bit low level for my running/cycling needs but could actually be really good and I love the idea of the 24h heart rate tracking which I don’t get from anything at the moment.

    • Treadmill: Yup, did a treadmill run (actually an BSX LT test with it). In my case, it was trending correctly, but a little bit slow. But I also wasn’t able to validate that specific treadmill (a hotel treadmill). For example, at my peak speed (5:43/mile), it was showing 5:58/mile. Still, it’s among the better treadmill progression I’ve seen on a WDR based watch.

      – Power: It can’t read a power meter at this time. Once Connect IQ enables .FIT file recording in Q1, it’ll then work there assuming someone develops an app to do so (I’m sure someone will).

    • Actually it can connect with Stryd using the footpod ANT+ channel. I was testing several units yesterday and had Stryd connected to an Ambit3. One of the units was the FR230.

      I have never paired it with Stryd, as for those tests I use the Ambit3 and Fenix 3. Interestingly, while I was getting GPS signal on all devices I saw that the FR230 connected to a footpod, which I was not wearing. It just found the ANT+ channel around and decided to connect to it (from the activity screen, not the add sensor option) on its own.

      You can check the watts recorded as cadence here: link to connect.garmin.com.

    • Just to be clear though, that’s re-using the cadence channel (Moxy can do the same thing), not actually writing an official power profile.

  4. David P.

    Thanks for the review. Very interesting as always.

  5. Christopher

    I didn’t see you comment on battery life for the 235 while recording a run (not 7×24 HR recording). I’m interested in how long the watch lasts while GPS is enabled (with or without GLONASS) and tracking HR. Garmin is claiming up to 16 hours. Is that to be believed? Interested in whether the 235 would work for ultras (up to 50M). As always, great review!

  6. Bob Goodman

    There’s been some complaints about the backlight, in comparison to previous models. Apparently the light source is distinctly dimmer and from the bottom of the face, instead of evenly all of the face. Have you noticed this, and if so what is your opinion?

    • Todd Johnson

      I think the brightness is fine, but the “from the bottom of the face” part sort of annoys me. I think it looks cheap. But it’s only really noticeable (to me) on black faces with nothing at the very bottom of the screen, so I put on an analog face with the “6” there and I don’t notice it.

  7. Sal

    Naaah!! No Virtual Racer and no plans to include the feature? I’m disappointed!
    What about the 630? VR included or not?

    Thank you for your great review, Ray!

  8. David Corsi

    Ray I see how you compared it to the Scoche and other optical HRs… But what about wrist based Mio? Is there a big difference in performance of the Elevate sensor vs the Mio Link or Garmin 225? Thanks.

  9. Paul

    Damn, so close.

    I really want to ditch the chest strap for both Running and cycling.
    Was hoping that re-broadcasting HR would be better while cycling.

    Have been holding off getting a scoche in the hope something like this would be my holy grail 🙂

    Thanks Ray

  10. KJ

    Thanks for the review! I’ve been occasionally refreshing the site all day haha

    But the review came out just as I thought it would. Nothing is perfect *sigh*

    I don’t think I will cancel my pre-order but out of curiosity, how does the HR accuracy compare to the 225?

    Is the daily HR monitoring worth the extra cash over getting the 230 + HR strap in your opinion?

  11. Darren Spicknell

    Ray awesome as always. Question to you or any other 620 users thoughts on upgrading? Really like the idea of a device that can do my activity tracking and continuous hr. However I find the running dynamics on the 620 still interesting after a year.

  12. Danny

    Great review Ray,
    Just one question.
    Can you use a Footpod for cadence/steps when running? I tend to run a bit with my daughter in a pram so my arm wouldn’t be swinging.

    • Max

      I’m confused. In the review you write: “Note however, that at present the footpod is really only useful for indoors, and not outdoors – since you can’t select to use it for pace outdoors.”

      Just to be clear, if you’ve got an ANT+ footpod, it will record candence outdoors but not pace? Is pace just calculated by the GPS?

      Thanks for the great review!

    • Chrisgg

      I was a bit confused by this comment too. I don’t run indoors on a treadmill but I do use a Garmin Footpod with a Forerunner 305 outdoors to get cadence data. The data is still collected in GPS mode and shows up under the route map and elevation and pace graphs. You can override the GPS and use the device in “indoor mode” outdoors, but the distance and pace data is rather inaccurate compared with GPS satellite and you get no map or elevation graphs to look at.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    FWIW, Garmin seems to call HRM-Run v2 HRM4-Run. Any details on the differences btw. the HRM3 vs. HMR4 devices, esp. as HRM-Run and HRM-Tri also get the 2nd gen running dynamics features?

    • It’s basically just the strap design, which according to Garmin “improves comfort”.

      (Read: Doesn’t chaff as much.)

    • Anonymous Coward

      That’s weird. The Edge 520 bundle comes with HRM3-SS sensor and the new strap, so is that combo now called “HRM4”? Also, having unique firmware for the three running dynamics devices implies that there are some non-cosmetic differences.

    • Dawn

      I have the Forerunner 210; and I’m mostly interested in a new watch because the chest strap has given me a permanent scar. Up until recently (when I ditched the HR strap because it just became so uncomfortable), I did HR-based training, so my goal was to find a good optical sensor so I could use my HR to drive training runs when I wanted that to be my focus. But I’m worried about the accuracy of the HR wrist sensors. I was feeling pretty confident about the mio, so I was disappointed that the new models for both Garmin and TomTom moved to in-house designed sensors.

      I’m still on the fence about whether I want a wrist sensor, and if I want a Garmin or a TomTom. I like the feel of the TomTom on my (quite small) wrist better, but I’m married to the analytic data of the Garmin, and I’m afraid to lose those.

      All that said, does the new Garmin strap really cause less chaffing? Because maybe that’s the way I need to go …

  14. ekutter

    too bad the 235 doesn’t broadcast HR during an activity. I often have both my Edge 810 and my watch recording an activity, especially mountain biking. The Edge 810 has had enough crashing issues, I always like having a backup. Plus my 620 generally has a better track than my 810. Further, if I have the 810 on a map page, I’m lucky to 6 or 7 hours. Again, a good reason to have a backup. But if the the 235 doesn’t broadcast HR, you’d still need to wear a chest strap for the 810.

  15. Carl Andersson

    Great review as always DC. Just one question – does the watch allow you to track gym workouts? Or freestyle workouts with no GPS?

    • Yes, you can use ‘Other’ profile for that (and just disable GPS).

    • Júlia

      In the app Connect is possible to name the “Other activity” as “Gym” for example?

      From Brazil!

    • Sasha

      I like the 235 so far for running – the HRM seems pretty accurate. However, I’ve also been using it for strength training/bootcamp workouts and it feels like the HRM is wildly inaccurate at times for that. Like, sometimes I’m breathless and my heart is racing, but the HRM says I’m only at 80 bpm.

    • Barney

      Sasha, welcome to 235 world. Yep, not a bad running watch but it does fail dismally as a gym / strength training device. For spin bike or workouts I have now resorted that I need to use the HR strap as have many others here.

    • werner

      I have my forerunner 235 since about 2 months now and i feel increasingly frustrated by the HR accuracy: it is repeatedly simply “plain wrong”, indicating heartbeats of eg 60 when i’m only resting in between speedy 1000m runs…i must be at 130 or so at those times! I’ve tightened the strap, moved the watch up and down a bit along the arm but it’s really hard to tell when it catches up or works. It gives no indication that it is not sure of the measure or so. At one time i put the watch over the long sleeve of the running shirt (since it was cold) and the HR simply continued to indicate a HR during several minutes….
      It does work ok at times too, but i’m losing confidence and have no indication of what can be wrong.

    • Sandijs

      Exactly my experience… and i can’t understand – are our watches defective???
      Because most people and Ray in review says that HR works almost perfect…

    • werner

      Today i put the watch on the inside of the wrist and it seemed to work better. I’ll try that for a while now.
      THe fact that you cannot simply tell the watch that you’re doing another sport (cycling in y case) so that it does not change the record settings is reallyannoing too. I don’t see th eissue in writing an if statement in the software to enable that…

    • There is a cycling profile (?). I wrote an entire section in the review on it: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • werner

      ok, thanks for that: i had inerpreted that paragraph as ‘needing to use the paired ANT+’ cadence measure to get into that cycling mode… So i’ll dig ito the menu to see how to get it in that mode. Tx again

  16. Will

    For the run “earlier tonight” with the FR230/235/630/Ambit you mentioned that 230 and 630 tracked off from the 235/ambit in the section before and around the Pont de Sully. Where were all of the watches being worn on the run? By any chance were the 230 and 630 on one arm while the 235 and Ambit were on the opposite arm? Or otherwise grouped near their respective partner for the run? Just curious if slightly different sky viewpoints might explain the different but similar behavior of them.

    • The FR235 was solo on the right arm.

      The FR230 and FR630 were on the left arm, separated by about an inch. While the Ambit3 was hand-held in my left hand (with the satellite hump pointing upwards).

  17. Sagar

    Thanks for the review Ray. Do you usually see any improvements in optical HR accuracy with firmware updates or is it limited by the physical sensor used?
    And I guess this is something that we’ll find out in a couple of months I’d how well it does with dark skinned ppl given that there doesn’t seem to be any yellow / red LEDs typically used to improve accuracy for us folks. I’ve ordered a 235 as well and will try it out and update you on that if I can. Thanks!

  18. antonio


    Great review. Thank !

    If i paired the HRM straps with the FR235 (I read there is no way to get running dynamics), what about the HR ?

    Will there a conflict between the straps HR reading and the optical HR ?
    Is it possible to choose between both and for ex disable the Optical HR for running session (in order to use the straps) and enable the Optical HR just for the dayli activity tracker ?


    • David

      Anytime you are wearing a paired heart rate strap it will use that instead of the optical HR sensor for data automatically.

    • Yes, in fact, it’s rather promiscuous about it too. So I’d actually pair the straps to my unit, and then I’d forcibly disable them so it wouldn’t use it.

    • Gerrit

      Wow, have they really thought this through? That would be extremely unfavorable in a race situation where – if I didn’t want to use a HR strap – the watch would rather auto pair with someone elses strap than utilize my optical sensor.

      In my understanding the only two HRM options are “auto” (meaning it will auto connect with any available breast strap) or “off” (meaning no HR). Would be great to have an option “Always use optical HR”.

      I picture myself at the start of a race – the whole time connecting and forcibly disabling other runners HR straps…

  19. Ben

    Nice review!
    I just have a question regarding the Resting Heart Rate, apart from the FR235, what is the best way to get it?
    I’ve got the 920xt, but I’m not really willing to sleep with a chest strap to get this, provided I could find an app on Connect IQ to do so.
    Thanks for your help.

  20. Carsten

    Nice review, but your comment about the 235 picking up a high cadence while running downhill as HR perplexes me slightly. I have seen this effect many times when I was still using a chest strap, but I always thought that it was related to a particularly high build up of static electricity with each step under these conditions. This explanation doesn’t apply to an optical sensor, so what’s going on here? For me the problems completely disappeared after switching from a chest strap to a Mio Link.

  21. Adrian

    Thanks Ray, great as always.
    In the garmin forums several people reported the very dim backlight. How do you judge it? Is the brightness of the lit display on FR 230/630 in line with other watches or is it really less brighter and harder to read?

    • Darren

      I’m curious about this as well. In some of the pics the 235 certainly looks a little dim vs the brightness of the 230

    • John FR630

      As a FR630 owner I’m interesting in hearing Ray’s opinion about the display, both with and without back light, indoor and outdoor – given several adverse comments on Garmin Forums.

    • It’s funny, I’ll be honest – I don’t get it.

      Is the FR230/235/630 lights slightly more dim than the backlight on the FR620? Yes. But does it matter? Umm, I don’t think so.

      It’s sorta like comparing a care that goes 100MPH vs one that goes 120MPH. Yes the speed limit is roughly 70MPH (with a 10MPH fudge factor).

      For me, it’s just as easy seeing the FR230/235/630 as anything else. I’m sure others might disagree, but I think that once you go run with it, you’ll find it’s fine. I think all but two of my FR230/235 runs were in the dark. 🙂

      As for photos, I’ll take some when it gets dark in a few hours – but beware, it’s kinda pointless. I can, based on my camera settings, make the backlight appear to be brighter or darker, or more bleed or less bleed. Super easy. I’ll try and find something that’s most realistic – but it’s super-important when looking at backlight photos to be aware of that.

    • Earl The Patriot

      Definitely agree with Ray. I saw those forum posts, too, and was a bit worried. But they’re making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s a complete non-issue and upon using it, you’d never think twice about it had you not read those posts. The pic someone posted makes it look much worse than it is. In reality, the complete watch face becomes lit, everything is visible, and *big deal* if you look at a certain angle you can see the light originates from the bottom of the unit.

    • Paul

      It’s a “non-issue” to the extent that owners of the 230/235/630 are going to the trouble of reporting their experience on Google Forums of low-contrast in low light, and a dim backlight. Lets play Devil’s Advocate here, if Garmin were aware that they had a few bad batches in the early releases, they certainly would not send watches from one of these inferior batches to anyone for a review?

      Let’s look at it another way, would the Garmin customers who have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new 230/235/630 waste their time posting photos on Garmin Forums and then go to the trouble of returning their device, if there wasn’t any real issue with the display? I think not! As Ray said, this is “a personal thing”, we are all different and for me when my new watch arrived I just wanted to get out and run with it and explore the great features.

    • Earl The Patriot

      Let’s look at it another way, would the Garmin customers who have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new 230/235/630 waste their time posting photos on Garmin Forums and then go to the trouble of returning their device, if there wasn’t any real issue with the display?”

      Maybe? I’ve seen multiple people claim that they returned the unit for lack of Virtual Partner. Even with a ConnectIQ app freely available that provides that exact functionality (at the expense of a data screen). I’ll admit that I’m probably easy to please since I’m coming off that absolute disaster of a product – the FR 225 – but I think they knocked the 235 out of the park. Also, I haven’t seen any evidence to indicate there is a bad batch of backlights. We’re all likely dealing with the same unit. It’s dimmer than the Fenix, sure, but is yours still not completely legible in the dark?

  22. Lennart Rasmusson

    Thank you for another great review.

    Could the 235 be used for cross-country skiing, perhaps with the “other” mode?

  23. Steve Edney

    I used to work in signal processing a long time ago, and I’m interested to see that the optical heart rate sensor gets confused and starts to pick up the frequency of your cadence when running on the downhill recovery sections. Probably from the tiny movements of the watch on the wrist, due to arm swing, being picked up as fluctuations in the intensity of the light being picked up by the sensor.
    I wonder if a good solution to this could be to use the signal from the cadence sensor to filter out that “interference” part of the signal from optical sensor and therefore enhance the “real” signal which is coming from the variations in blood flow?

    • Yup, totally normal in the optical sensor world for cadence to be picked up as HR, especially in the 170-180rpm range, which near identically locks to higher HR’s.

      This was also common with some HR straps as well of course. What’s old is new again…

    • Frankie

      In addition to running cadence potentially interfering with HR accuracy in the optical HR monitors, would accuracy vary in someone who sweats very much compared to someone who sweats very little?

    • Matt

      re: FR235:

      Honestly, as someone who loves technology but doesn’t really know fitness hardware on an engineering level it would still seem possible that the sensor is simply not able to be firm enough on your wrist to handle all of your natural cadence.

      How does it feel to you on the wrist? I had a 405CX but I hated the feel of the stiff armband and monster-feeling display. Is this a smaller display size-wise?

    • Shaka

      I also ran into the HR/Cadence issue on my run today while running, a little harder downhill my HR jumped from 152 up into the 168-176 range for about 4 minutes and then back down to 142 within 10 seconds at the end of the 4 minutes, right in line with my cadence at the time? Not real excited about this since I run my tempo runs according to HR. I will keep checking on this to see if it becomes a major issue. Also, I have noticed a couple spike jumps to about 152-155 or so on easy runs (when hr was about 140) for very brief moments, not too worried about this one. Otherwise I am happy with all the other features of the watch and look forward to more interval/tempo runs with it.

    • Barney

      After a couple of months of flawless running activity I’ve been bitten by the cadence bug too (G235). A nice 16km run, from the 3km mark to the very end it locked on and wouldn’t let up. Hmmm, I wear the HR strap for bike and “other” due to poor Garmin engineering, but now I’m loosing all confidence in this watch. Next update due…… I’m waiting…….

  24. Matthias

    Hi Ray, thx for the review, as fine as allways! I use my sportswatches for strengthtraining too. Beeing upset you won’t be able to create a profile for this I wonder wether you can wear the 235 turned to inside of your wrist and still get pulse data, what would be necessary esp. for kettlebell workouts (othervice the screen gets crushed by the Bell)?

    Besteht regards

    • Yes, you can always wear it on the inside of your wrist (and in fact, generally most people will get more accurate results there).

      As for Kettle balls though, that tends to be tough on optical sensors. I haven’t tried it.

  25. UKRunner

    Great review as always, thanks.
    Still debating the 230 or 235.
    I assume the HR monitor can be totally turned off if desired, making the battery life the same as the 230?
    Also, that HR sensor seems to stick out quite a bit. Is this comfortable and wearable as an everyday watch?


  26. Philip

    Many thanks for this review!
    I have some questions about the alerts. Does the watch vibrate or make a sound? Or is this configurable? I like it when the watch doesn’t make any noise. 🙂
    And how is the Alarm? Does the watch make sound to wake you up or can it wake you up by just a vibration alarm?

  27. kw

    Hi Ray,
    “The FR230 & FR235 both support VO2Max, even using the optical sensor (a rarity in the industry)”
    Do you mean I can have VO2Max data with FR230 + Scosche Rhythm+ setup?

  28. Dirk

    Great review Ray, really in depth!

    I was hoping this pick up the 235 but your remarks/quircks are making me rethink it again..
    Do you think they are able to fix those things with firmware upgrades or do they require a new HW version?

    I’m mainly doing tempo runs anyway..so you think its a good fit for me?

  29. Bastiaan

    Does the watch also support “smart wake”, so it wakes you up when you are in light sleep?

  30. Sergey

    on the pictures where possible custom page layouts are shown (“You get a bunch of pages, some tweakable, some not. Here’s the rundown”) – is the light on or off?
    Is the display easiliy readable without the light?

    How is the readability at night (there are some complaints on garmin forums as far as I know)?

    Trying to figure out if the display will be as readable as my old 610 or somewhat compared at least (I assume latter)

  31. Ray, you make mention of differences in the performance of the optical HR in the 235 vs the Vivosmart HR. Can you elaborate on that or is there a review of the Vivosmart in the pipeline. I’m expecting delivery of the Vivosmart on Monday….

    • I’ve been almost 100% focused on the optical of the FR235 (+Polar A360, Microsoft Band). I can generally only test two optical HR sensors at once, since I don’t like to double-up optical sensors on a given wrist as it can impact accuracy of one or more units.

      So later today I’ll ‘retire’ the FR235 off my right wrist and and likely replace it with the VSHR. I wouldn’t expect a review next week on the VSHR (next week will be the Garmin FR630, A360, and a power meter or two).

    • thanks Ray. I wasn’t really expecting one, just wondered if there was something specific behind the comment.

    • David

      When you test the VSHR do at least a run with the 235 to see how the physical differences effect the Elevate sensor. 🙂

  32. Oskar

    I noticed that it’s now possible to use a foot pod for pacing on the 920xt, do you think it will come later on to the 235 as well? Using GPS for pacing is just dreadful compared to the foot pod, which is so much faster when changing tempo!

  33. Gabby

    Thanks for the review, I’ve been reading your reviews for a while and it helped me make the decision to get my fr15 (basic I know but I was just starting out). I was considering upgrading to the 235 for the convenience of optical heart rate and wouldn’t mind knowing my VO2 max, recovery times etc (also would have liked virtual pacer!) but I also do a lot of gym work – weights, circuits and body weight exercises – and was wondering if you knew how the optical heart rate would perform for these activities given that its not so great for cycling?

    • I talk about it a little bit in the review, I generally found them to be identical or near identical when comparing both VO2Max and Recovery Times between a chest strap on a FR230/630, and an optical sensor on the FR235.

  34. Manos

    The question I have for years is finally answered.
    When we will stop using heart straps?
    I think in a year or two all watches will be with a heart sensor.
    Cant wait for the FR935!!!

    • Sergey

      No way I think.
      There are still some countries on earth, I think, where winter happens from time to time
      Many runners (me included) do wear watch on top of their jacket/ gloves – to see info at a glance
      I think many skiers do the same.

      So you still need some sensor – being it chest strap or waist.
      Same for biking – it is so convenient to have watch on the handlebars instead of your arm to see your data.

      Still progress inboptical sensors is amazing and great for everybody

    • Sai

      I live in one of those countries, and I wear Mio Link inside my jacket. It is a pain to deal with strap in the winter when it slip and you’re already outdoor.

    • Mike S.

      I concur. I have a Scosche HRM that I wear under my sleeve and my watch over my jacket for winter running.

      While it is nice to have convergence with everything on one device, sometimes it is nice to have the flexibility to use separate sensors.

      I remember the old days of having a Timex Speed & Distance paired up to a separate GPS brick on my arm and another unit to record the workout. We have definitely come a long way.

    • Plodders

      I don’t see why you couldn’t use an ant+ sensor with a figuritive 935xt. But for day to day fitness tracking and heart rate sampling it would work great. I am ready to sell on my 920 if this arrives (pretty much the only feature I feel lacking is backround heart rate sampling)

    • Giorgio

      I absolutely agree with you! I already wrote a comment about it.
      During winter I wear fleeces and gloves, completely covering my wrist area. Further, current technical fleeces are really tight and also cover the initial part of the hand.
      So, I wear my watch over them and I couldn’t wear one with an optical sensor.
      What do you guys think?

    • George

      I think you may have missed the fact that the 235 can use an external ANT+ HRM if desired. So you get the built in optical HRM for all the times where that’s appropriate, plus you can easily use a chest strap or other ANT+ HRM in lieu of the built in HRM when desired.

      So in the instance when you need to wear the watch outside your clothing, just use a chest strap or a Scosche Rhythm+ type separate HRM.

    • Giorgio

      Ok thanks for your advice!
      I will consider buying a FR225 with a Garmin HRM bundle or a Scosche Rhythm+ for winter season.
      That’s a quite big expense, though!

  35. Koen B

    Good review, sad to here the optical sensor isn’t as good as it should/could be. Would you recommend buying the FR235 over the Scosche Rhythm+ (with I could be using with my FR220)? The main functionalities I miss on the FR220 are optical HR sensor and race predictor.

  36. Urko

    Hi Ray,
    So the 235 gives you the VO2Max and recovery time without strap? Are they accurate? Same results as 630?

  37. Sven

    Great review, thank you so much.
    Waiting for your review of the FR630 to make my decision.

    • Marios

      Got the 630 and the touchscreen is very temperamental, especially the “hamburger” button. I cannot imagine myself running a marathon in the rain (or cold using gloves) trying to use the touchscreen at mile 22.

      Am I the only one to think that Garmin should have released a 635 with:
      – both OHR for RHR and running dynamics strap for actual running
      – no capacitive touchscreen as buttons is the most reliable way to operate the watch in high performance settings (intervals, races)

      I’ll wait to see what ray has to say about the 630 screen before I decide to keep it.

      (Apologies for the 630 diversion but I am assuming most people are looking at both watches)

    • Matthias

      Can you get to the vital functions like laps via buttons too, with the 630, or are you forced to use the touchscreen for everything? How does the touchscreen behave when getting wet, I mean, it’s waterproof so you should be able to take it to a swim without having the screen going crazy…

    • Changing screens generally works for me (since it doesn’t require much precision), but I agree, my hamburger is a pain in the ass.

    • Tim Grose

      In intervals you would take manual laps with a physical button on the 630. It is very easy to change data screens with a 630 with your fingers and, with gloves, it worked fine with ones that have conductive finger tips as quite a lot of gloves now come with. Changing screens is all I would want to do in a race and indeed nearly all runs TBH.

    • Marios

      I would agree with Ray that the touchscreen generally works but for me personally it’s a hit or miss. At this point I would say that I have an 90% success rate in registering a general page turn but closer to 60% for the hamburger. Add water/sweat to this and numbers go down.

      Of course this is personal and I still haven’t figured out what is the right “gesture” to maximize success in flipping data pages.

      Now WRT to Tim’s comment, it is true that taking laps and start/stopping an activity (along with turning on/off the light) involves physical buttons but everything else requires the touchscreen.

    • Tim Grose

      Tapping near the top nearly always works for me for changing data pages.
      Hamburger can usually get to in “one hit” now but I don’t think I would often want to go in there mid run.

    • Marios

      But how do you go backwards in pages if you simply tap? I usually go back and front on pages so I am trying to use “swipes” that don’t always work (especially with gloves).

      What I really don’t understand is who really wants a capacitive touchscreen on a running watch. I understand that it has a “wow” factor for non-serious runners but it’s too gimmicky and non useful in my book.

    • Tim Grose

      Sometimes I just keep tapping until get to the one I want. Other times I might swipe to go back. We are lucky in the UK that really there are only a few days a year that I need to wear gloves. I probably have too many data screens enabled but when the watch is new to me, I like to see all the options to see what might be useful going forwards. Is a touchscreen “better” than buttons only for running? Probably marginal but the 630 has more functions so you are kind of stuck with it if you want those functions.

    • Marios

      Tim and Ray,

      I’ve been using my 630 more and more and the touch screen simply doesn’t work for me.

      The other day, at the end of my run I was waiting for two minutes for my recovery HR to appear and what do you know, some of my sweat fell directly onto the screen. That was it, I could not register a single swipe or tap until I could find something to wipe the sweat off the screen. I couldn’t use my sweat soaked singlet either.

      Could it be that the highly conductive sweat makes touch even worse? I will wait for your review to see if I have a defective unit or if this is to be expected from capacitive touch.

      Also to Tim’s point about taping. I indeed managed to tap towards the top of the screen during the run but it is not reliable. Using buttons, I could memorize that I need to go lets say 2 screens back and without even looking I could just click the button quickly to jump there. With the 630 I have to keep my eyes glued on the screen to see if the swipes/taps registered. Not fun during an intense run.

      What a pitty for an otherwise amazing watch 🙁

    • Abbey

      No more garmin touch screen for me my fr 620 is already toast as the screen is non responsive.

      Until garmin gets the touch screen technology right i would be sticking to the button controlled fore runners.

      Just ordered my 235 to replace my defective fr 620.

      Happy New year Ray and all runners…. from Lagos, Nigeria.

  38. Kevin

    Will the Edge 520 HRM monitor work with the FR235? And how does the FR235 decides which HR signal (optical or chest) it will use?

  39. Rudeq

    I really like the 235, it has nice features for a reasonable price.
    Too bad for the battery life. It’s a shame they spec something and they are off by a factor 4. They should have updated their spec or postponed the release…
    If they don’t provide a fix for this, then it’s definitely a no for me. I don’t want to charge my watch every 2 days…

    • David

      No question Ray has worn it 10 times as much as I have but after fully charging the 235 watch and wearing it for 2.5 days during which I did 2 brief 30 minute runs and wore it 24/7 the watch shows like 75% battery based on the little battery picture. I wonder if it’s a manufacture issue. Don’t want to be alarmist but 2-2.5 days in Ray’s review made me go huh?

    • My configuration:

      A) 24×7 HR enabled
      B) 1hr GPS run/ride per day on average
      C) Bluetooth Smart alerts/notifications enabled (perhaps 12-20 alerts per day to the watch)
      D) Backlight off in most cases

      I asked Garmin about it on Monday, and they didn’t disagree with my performance (usually they’d respond with a ‘that’s weird, let’s figure this out’), just simply that an update is coming to fix it.

    • Marcel

      Ray writes he had notifications on as well. Did you? Perhaps the drain is extra high because of a combined problem caused by the sensor AND the notifications? That would improve chances of a complete fix.

    • David

      I get perhaps 10 notifications a day, do half the running of Ray (30 mins) but with GLOSNASS on, 24×7 heartrate almost no backlight use. I have yet to charge the device and I’m on day 4 and battery looks about 35-40% based on the icon.

    • Atma


      Electric battery longevity is reduced in low temperatures. Could this be the case?

      Best regards

  40. Anders

    Hi Ray,
    Nice work as always! I appreciate it:)
    Im just wondering, will the FR235 also support HRM-strap?
    For us living up north (Norway) using the watch in the winter, its not always that nice to have it right on the skin.
    Does the temperature influence the optical readings?

    • Anders

      Sorry, Jamie had already provided the answer to that one.

    • Yup, it can pair to it.

      As for wearing it in the cold, my tests all last week with the FR235 were actually up in Norway/Finland (near Karigasniemi).

      See – I’m coming to you to test!

    • Inger-Lise Ramstad

      I thought of buying the 235. But mainly I am going to use it for bycyckling and wonder if 235 can be paired to a bikecomputer on the handlebar.
      If not, is there an other bikecomputer that is compatible with optical wrist-based Heart Rate watch?

      Inger-Lise, Norway

  41. Kasper lund

    Just a thought Ray. YOu used it in the northern part of Finland/Norway? That might explain the poor battery life?

  42. Mike

    DCR, thanks for all the info!

    What are your thoughts on the quality of the screen on the FR235? I am coming from a 225, and the screen is noticeably worse IMO. Dim, with low contrast compared to the 225 (while both have mediocre resolutions/pixel density). The backlight is also uneven and not bright. It doesn’t look anything like they advertise on their website. I’m 31 and at times struggle to read the time off this display. Really strange!

    • Kasper Lund

      Did you experience the same battery problems on the 630?

    • I haven’t seen those battery issues on the FR630 (likely because it lacks an optical sensor, which is the cause of the battery drain here).

      As for screen quality, I think it’s good. There are certain screens where it comes up sharper than others (I really like the initial text message screen for example).

    • I don’t think the sensor is at fault here (or the implementation for 24/7) readings.

      I’ve been testing the Vivosmart HR for a couple weeks now and the battery is perfectly normal (at least something is in this device). So it has to be something related to how has been implemented in the FR235 itself, not the sensor itself.

    • Well, again, Garmin was very clear in their e-mail to me it was the fault of the optical sensor:

      “…we have recently discovered a bug with the heart rate sensor where it is drawing more current when off than it’s supposed to, and this is probably the issue that you’re seeing. We have a fix in the works that will be forthcoming in a software update very soon. We will be testing the fix in the next week or two, and if it proves out okay we will release it to the public ASAP.

      Do keep in mind that the VSHR and FR235 sample at different rates.

    • Oh, I meant the sensor is not at fault hardware-wise. But for sure there is something in the software. At least something that can be fixed via an upgrade.

      What is the sample rate on the FR235? The VSHR is every 10 minutes when not active and every minute when there is motion.

  43. Nuno Correia


    First of all thank you for you excellent review

    Can you please let me know if the FR235 is compatible with the ant cadence speed combo:link to dcrainmaker.com

    Best regards

  44. Will

    Hi Ray,
    I assume those bugs, quirks and oddities that you were talking about, are issues that can be solved by a firmware fix, right?

  45. Tobias

    Hi Ray,
    have you heard about plans separating the option to turn the heart rate sensor of the FR235 Auto/Off from the 24-7 monitoring and the activities? Today it is interesting to follow my 24-7 heart rate but in the future i would like to turn it off to save the battary and only use it for my running activities. But than i have to turn it on manually for ever run because it’s currently a watch wide setting.

    I also can confirm, that i can enable the indoor bike activity in the menu.

  46. 6co

    You mention battery issues on the 235. But what about the 230? Same type of issue? If not, I guess that is entirely because of the optical HR…
    How many hours could you get out of the 230?


    • The battery issues are confined to the optical sensor. I’ll be doing some battery tests on the FR230 on the roof later tonight.

      (It’s tough for me to do the 16hr GPS battery tests pre-review, simply because it means taking a watch out of commission for a full day. I often back-fill these into the reviews a few days later.)

    • Mario

      Hey all,

      I tested the battery life of the FR230 using GPS+GLONASS by leaving it outside my window until it shut down. When I started to recharge it, it reported 30% battery left and the activity lasted 10:38 hours (see screenshot attached for details).

      My questions are: Is it normal to shutdown with about 30% battery left? Is this just a battery calibration issue?

      Moreover, I’m guessing that using only GPS (no GLONASS) I should get about 14 hours of battery life, close to the advertised 16 hours. Has anyone else tested this?

    • I believe typically it’ll force power off below 10% (I can’t remember the exact number, it changes slightly from model to model). 30% sounds a bit more like a crash…

  47. Howard

    Hi DC- what is the your view on the 235 vs Vivoactive? Other than the Optical HR, worth the upgrade?

    • It’s tricky. If you’re a swimmer, stick with the Vivoactive. If however, you’re more of a runner, I’d go FR230/235.

    • Mr. T

      I’m struggle with this. I mainly run, but to be honest the Vivoactive can be had for $149 from Amazon…that’s about $18 Cheaper than the 235.

      Other than the optical HR, I know the 235 has a lot of bells and whistles, but I wonder how many of those are actually useful. I’ve been running for more than 25 years and VO2 Max isn’t really that helpful to have.

    • Tim

      I am also wondering this…I have an old 305 that is on its last legs, and I am looking for a new watch. I most likely will not use the daily activity tracking. I bought a vivoactive on impulse on Amazon when I saw it drop to 150, along with a Scoshe HRM. Basically, for another $100, I can get the 235 or even the 230 and keep the Scoshe. Thoughts?

  48. Robert Black

    Great review thank you, I’m a tech addict and will probably get this in due time, how I handle this addiction is to own everything at least a year

  49. 6co

    Hey Ray
    thanks for your great review once again.
    Can you elaborate some more on the Vivofit HR having a different Optical HR sensor? Or if I understood right, same Elevate sensor but used differently?


    • In my discussions, it’s the same sensor – but to expect different performance because of the form factors of the devices. For example, with the FR235 you have a much bigger watch blocking light, versus the smaller Vivosmart HR band. That’s because outsie light is the arch-enemy of optical sensors.

  50. Alex

    Thanks for the updated review on the final product, Ray! I’ve had my 230 for close to a week now, having purchased it through Clever Training on the strength of your preliminary review and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s a definite step up from the 220 (which I had also purchased after reading your review, also through Clever Training) and it hits all the issues that I had with the 220: second-by-second recording, better satellite reception from what I’ve seen, better bike integration, solid battery performance, notifications (no need for an Apple Watch LOL), etc. I can’t help noticing how the 230 just feels lighter on the wrist. Now to go set up my Garmin Cadence/Speed Sensors on my bike (also bought after reading your review).

  51. Maryro Mendez

    For a runner would you recommend the Fenix3 sapphire or the FR235. I can’t decide, I sold my FR620 to upgrade

    • Mike S.

      It sounds like the Fenix 3 is the outdoor watch that has absolutely everything and then some. But it doesn’t have the HRM that the 235 has. The Fenix is overkill if you’re primarily using it for running. But if you get it you should get the Sapphire model.

  52. Ryan

    Hi Ray,

    Great review as usual.

    I must say that Garmin are losing credibility with such basis spec errors. How long would a car manufacture last if they sold cars with a fuel range a quarter of that specified… ..just seems crazy.

    I was genuinely rooting for the 235, in general the features and price do seem well match, but I can not part company with my hard earned cash when such blatant mis-selling is occuring.

  53. Jr

    So it sounds like the FR225 might still be the better watch for people who care most about core functionality.

  54. Max


    In the legend below your comparison picture, did you get the order correct?

    … Polar V800, Garmin FR225, Garmin FR630, Garmin FR235 …

    Should the FR630 come after the Polar V800?

  55. Leo

    Great review.
    Are the music controls accessible while running? And are they at all useful on a non-touch screen, say to skip tracks or change the volume, during exercise?
    Also are notifications shown during activities?

    • Alex

      They’re accessible although I’d say that if you have a pair of ear buds that have inline control (stop, skip, etc.), those might still be a bit faster to use than holding down the up button on the watch to bring up the music controls on a run. I played around with it on a recent run and they worked fine but I’d probably just use the controls on my Bluetooth ear buds.

  56. patricio

    Hola Ray, another great review, thanks.
    Is the time race predictor a field available to add in a costume made screen or has is own screen like the heart rate


    • Peter

      It is a different screen where it shows your remaining distance, estimated arrival time and average pace. No data field available for in your own screens as far as I can see.

    • Tim Grose

      Some CIQ data fields are starting to emerge which do similar things and which could be placed on your own screens.

  57. Josh

    To share yet another run, which on thanksgiving I’m thankful for my ability to be able to run, I am in Minnesota where it’s WINDY and SNOWY. A far cry from the 50 degrees I left yesterday! HR was off on my 235 for the first .97 miles then smoothed out. Everything else performed great. Ray, my concern is how much the recovery advisor and VO2 estimations are being affected by the high HR spikes. I’m happy to push thru the spikes so long as a valid smoothing fix is something that truly is a potential reality at some point. Not having to use a strap or even the rhythm + is kinda nice.
    Also, I’m a bit confused on how resting HR is determined. Mine has varied from 40-53. Typically I’m in the mid 40s.

    • David

      RHR appears to be the lowest recorded heart rate of the day, as for the last 3 nights it has been the bottom number it hit during sleeping but that is actually a bit concerning because it appears for like a single minute the the optical HR recorded a drop of like 12-15 beats below what is my normal RHR and that became my RHR for the day. I am fairly certain the drop was a momentary glitch in the reading, perhaps my arm shifted the watch a bit etc. but it still recorded it as the RHR. This is different than Fitbit does with the Charge HR where there is some kind of algorithm that looks at low heart rate trends over the day before creating a RHR that is slightly above the bottom most recorded readings. I don’t think it will be a significant issue when viewing RHR over time on the 235 but for now I might take an individual day RHR with a grain of salt unless I see I held that HR for sometime.

    • Yup, I actually prefer this method versus the Fitbit one. Fitbit was just sorta something wonky, whereas Garmin is pretty much straight and simple.

    • Josh

      Thanks for that input and education guys. I guess I always thought of the term RHR as more of a stable thing that was slightly dynamic like VO2 max (mine has been in the 52-54 range for the last couple yrs), but learning about RHR aside from the manual readings I took is interesting (seems the Garmin readings I’m getting in the mid to low 40s are pretty good). Although I do find it interesting how the RHR changes several times throughout the day, when I woke this morning it was 40, 4 hrs later it’s displaying 43.

    • Tim Grose

      It would be unusual to get your lowest HR in the day because as soon as you walk somewhere (even downstairs) it is going to up a bit and then you would need to sit still again for a while for it to drop right down again.

    • TFA

      that’s probably a bit screwed by Garmin as the HRRest is not the lowest HR ever recorded but typically measured before you get out of bed , still lie down and relaxed, typical you have a lower HR at sleep there your cardiovascular system runs at it’s minimum level, using the lowest HR to compute the Heart Rate Reserve would lead to a wrong VO2max and wrong recovery time

    • It’s actually interesting. I’ve done a fair bit of data collecting on resting HR both awake and asleep (with straps), and for me (again, everyone is different here), my sleeping HR and my ‘just lie down for 2-3 mins quietly HR are virtually identical, usually at most 1bpm different.

    • tony

      I still dont know how the RHR is calculated. I am always seeing the RHR much greater the the low HR indicator from last 4 hours.

  58. Luke

    Hi Ray,

    As always great job 😉 A possibillity to charge during ongoing activity is a great knews. Is it possible to turn off optical heart rate before we start an activity to increase battery life? It would be lovely to see tests of Microsoft Band 2 and Suunto Ambit3 Run ;))

  59. Anton

    So… the question is:
    TomTom spark cardio
    Motorola 360 sport (whenever it is launched)

    I run 2x a week…outside 90% of time.
    Do 1 spinning training a week
    And one gym session a week.

    I like getting metrics from the run and have a lot of info on screen.
    I play music through phone so that is not a dealbreaker.
    I especially want calories burned/hr metrics from gym (at least in the ballpark).

    Using the multisport cardio at the moment and I find lack of indoor freestyle training and the lack of ability in creating gym.

    Smartphone control and notifications are not really important. But the option of using Moto 360 sport w. Endomondo does intrigue me.

    At the moment I find the spark as the weakest candidate…only things speaking for it are price and the chance of (maby one day) getting blood oxygen and VOmax info.

    Forerunner speaks to me due to the race finnishing time and option of creating runs. But battery life and lack of multisport options (as in the Spark) are a minus.

    Help me….what should I get? Optical hr is a must as is gps.

    • Melissa

      Same question here!

    • Mike S.

      My two cents…

      I’d say wait a few months.

      None of those watches you listed have deals right now and there may be some more coming down the pipeline (new Polar watches??). Plus these watches are fairly new and still working out some kinks.

    • Anton

      Not getting the watch now.
      As said I have a working albeit insufficient tomtom multisport cardio. Going to wait prob. to January.

      At the moment I am inclined towards the moto 369 sport due to endomondo, opt hr, gps and smartfunctions… but the smartwatch + opti hr track record is less than stellar.
      Samsung gearfit, gear 2, gear 2 neo -> crap
      Lg -> so-so
      Moto 360 -> meh.
      This makea me worry for the 360 sport.

      My dream woyld be fenix3, 920xt, polar rc3, ambit3 (mayby 4) or at minimum vivoactive -type optical hr watch.
      …one can dream.

      Both polar and garmin apps are good so no big deal which gets a; high-end, opti hr, multisport, gps watch with possibillity of; ant+ and/or BT connect to footpod, ext hr strap, bike computer, phone and so on.

      😀 mad dreams 😀

    • Jay Bostock

      Same question here really, but:

      Dcrainmaker – could you…
      1) Get your hands on a Moto 360 Sport to review?
      2) Compare Moto 360 sport with Garmin FR235?

      I’m probably more towards the 360 sport, but since it’s not out yet, there are no reviews particularly on accuracy of GPS and HRM.

    • I plan to look at the Moto 360. Oddly enough, it actually becomes available in France before the US…regrettably, the same day it becomes available in France, I fly to the US. Doh..

    • Dale C

      Glad I found this comment and happy you’ll be checking out the 360 Sport. I was ready to buy a FR230 for my first running watch before I saw the 360 sport would be released in January. I’m leaning towards the Moto because Android Wear will get updated where Garmin stuff is too proprietary, but if the GPS/HR aren’t up to snuff, then it’s pointless.

    • Mike Richie

      I really am beginning to wonder if any Smartwatch/Androidwear watch will get sport/fitness right. The Moto 360 Sport is not waterproof (IP67) and the battery will last UP TO a full day. These basic requirements really disqualify a watch like this (the Apple Watch suffers similarly). If they can’t get that right, the chances of really creating the necessary sensor and software support to make it a useful workout device are slim. If somebody were to make one of the major smartwatches really do sport and training tracking (i.e. GPS, waterproof, accurate optical HR, Ant+ or at least BT sensor support, workouts, intervals, real buttons for when you are wet or sweaty, basic navigation) they would clean up. However, it really doesn’t look like anyone is trying – instead they are trying to compete with Apple and Fitbit (where they will likely lose). Just my two cents.

    • Jay

      UPDATE: Okay, so I went ahead and bought a moto 360 sport, which was a total waste of money – if you have an iPhone, like I do. I think if you are using and android phone or tablet, then you can probably get more use out of it, but although it seems to perform fine (and is a very nice size and comfortable to wear etc), you can’t get at the run data (to import into Strava for example) if you are pairing it with an iPhone. The one day battery life is also pretty annoying. I have decided to go with the FR230 and so far, so good. I considered the FR235 and the Vivoactive HR, but decided that better battery life was more important than sub-standard HR data (I’ll just wear a chest strap when running, a bit of a pain, but not that big a deal really). Also considered going higher end with Fenix 3, but declined based on price and size/weight. I think the FR230 hits the running watch sweet spot, if you are prepared to go without the optical HR in favour of the better battery.

  60. Jerzy

    What about the sound alarms coming out from the watch. Are they louder then FR225? Maybe they’re as loud as FR220? Can you compare it?

    • justin clayton

      can;t compare with the older models but I think the sounds are too low, like none existent too low. Maybe if you run in a perfectly quite, zero wind & warm enough you don’t need a beanie over the ears you can hear something, otherwise useless

  61. Rodrigo Valle Teixeira

    Hi Ray,
    With yet another model on their range supporting smartphone integration, Garmin is really expanding this.
    However, we still see the Garmin Connect mobile app is only available for iOS and Android.

    I use Windows Phone (Lumia 920), as do a non-negligible fraction of my friends and family. It is awesome, fast, stable, cheap, and will never go back to buggy Android or iO$.
    I would LOVE to see the Garmin Connect app made available for Windows Phone, even if only for Windows 10. When we ask Garmin about this, there is no response. Either on forums or support.

    Can you use your insider contacts, and get a realistic and honest quote from Garmin, if they ever intend to make a Windows Phone Garmin Connect app?


    • I’ve chatted with them a few times about it – and basically they just don’t see demand for it. In even the most optimistic views of Windows Smartphone usage, it’s at 3%, which is super-tough to justify for any company.

      Obviously, never say never, but unless someone else is footing the bill (i.e. Microsoft), it’s just not going to happen. Note, that Microsoft, like Apple and Google, often do foot the bills (full or partial) for development costs for various apps.

    • Matthias

      The problems begin when they get the licence and forge their own Version for windowsphone 😀

      It’s a pitty, because it’s kind of a downward spiral – I personally like windowsphone for both the hardware and the OS and would get myself instantly one of those, if it could connect to my beloved sportsgear…

    • Rodrigo Valle Teixeira

      Ok, fair enough. That said…..
      If, by any random chance, you know anyone who previously worked at Microsoft, and eventually had internal contacts, could you ask that person to poke around Microsoft for that?


    • Todd Johnson

      I have friends who work for medium-sized companies who produce medium-popular apps (like a banking app that rhymes with Dimple), where Microsoft offered to foot the bill for an app. Those companies often declined, supposedly because there’s a lot of expense that goes beyond the one-off cost of building the app. For one, there’s customer support. But also as your APIs and feature sets evolve, you have to continually update the funded app on your own dime, or your company will look bad.

      Not to say that no one takes Microsoft up on this; clearly some companies do. But even if they make the offer, it’s not a slam dunk.

    • Indeed, it’s the long term costs that end up being way more. And that’s especially true in the case of the Garmin Connect Mobile app – which is constantly evolving to stay on top of new devices and capabilities.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Out of curiosity: apart from keynote apps highlighting new hardware or OS features (e.g. Apple Pencil; Apple TV w/tvOS), when has Apple paid for app development for the platform? “Often” is hardly the correct quantifier here.

    • I was using often for all of them combined, but when companies do it for each new release (keynote or otherwise), it is often.

    • Free! Microsoft Windows Phone app – from link to microsoft.com

      Garmin Connect Mobile on Windows Phone

      Supported operating systems:
      Windows 10
      Windows Phone 10

      Garmin site info: link to buy.garmin.com

      Note, I’ve never tried this app yet, but I’m very curious as i’ll be upgrading to WP10 soon.

  62. vomi

    Thank you for this very scientific review Ray.

    Any comment about the differences between the 225 optical sensor and the 235 ?

    • Ruben

      He states at the beginning of the review that the 225 oHRM is outsourced and the 235 was developed in-house, which is a very substantial difference.

    • Paul Adams

      Like David Corsi, KJ, and vomi, I would like to see how the Garmin 235 optical sensor compares to the Garmin 225 sensor.

      I do appreciate the Garmin 235 comparison with the Scosche Rhythm+. However, the Garmin 225 uses the Mio sensor, while the Scosche Rhythm+ uses Valencell’s technology. I loved my Scosche Rhythm+ until I lost it on a business trip. Then I migrated to the Garmin 225.

    • MS

      I am new to all this, so excuse me for some basic question. Due to a knee injury, I am now primarily using a bike to keep in shape. I prefer riding bike outdoor, but because of long work hours and lack of city infrastructure for biking, I also go to spinning class 2-3 times a week. I am looking for a smartwatch/running watch capable of giving me following information:
      1. Continuous HRM during day without wearing chest strap
      2. Precise HRM during spinning and cycling workouts
      3. Compatibility with cadence/speed sensors
      4. Good sleep tracking capabilities

      My questions are:
      1. Is Forerunner 235 good choice for my needs?
      2. Is it possible to pair Wahoo RPM Cadence sensor with Forerunner 235 and show cadence data on Forerunner? Also, is it possible to use Wahoo RPM cadence sensor on my shoe during spinning class and get cadence data shown on Forerunner?
      3. Can anyone think of some better combination for my needs?

      Best regards.

    • Ruben

      1. Yes
      2. If the Wahoo Cadence/Speed sensor Broadcasts in ANT+, yes.
      3. Given 24-hour tracking requirement you expressed it’s either the 235 or an advanced activity tracking band like the new Vivosmart HR or Polar A360

    • RE: Comparing FR225 to FR235 optical sensor

      I covered accuracy of the FR225 optical sensor in quite a bit of detail in my FR225 review just a few short months ago, often comparing to the Scosche and a traditional HR strap.

      The same Scosche, and just a newer HR strap were used for my FR235 review now.

      Ultimately, the FR225 appears to have a better sensor (the Mio one), based on what I’ve tested. I’m not sure wearing them side by side changes anything there – I’ve got tons of time testing the Mio sensor in various other devices too. It’s fairly well established.

      With this here, we can see how the Garmin sensor performs, which is generally good, but still has some edge spots.

    • David Corsi

      The other obvious issue is you can’t fairly compare an optical sensor on the upper arm where skin movement is less than a constantly flexing wrist/forearm area. That alone may well be why Scoche performs better BUT if we compare apples to apples, Mio vs Elevate (Garmin) we can see if Garmin has managed to at least equal the best wrist based optical performance.

    • MS

      Ruben, thanks for you reply. I am still not sure whether jumping at 235 is good decision, but I guess I’ll do it. I just don’t see anything that better fits my needs at this moment.

    • Steve B


      Just curious. Did you end up purchasing the 235? If so, how is it working out for you? My needs are very close to what you listed in your post and I’m interested in your experience so far. Thanks very much.

    • MS

      Hello Steve B,

      Check reply #965, but short version is that I bought it, and in my opinion HR accuracy is not good enough for cycling/spinning workouts where you put lot of stress on your arms. For those workouts, I will definitely use HR strap in combination with 235. Sleep tracking is not completely accurate, but for me is on acceptable level. I haven’t yet tried it with speed/cadence sensor.

      Basically, it is as Garmin says… this is not a medical device 🙂 …

  63. Craig Burrows

    Hi Ray,
    Out of curiosity what software did you use to overlay/compare the workout graphs in this post? I’m trying to compare workouts with WKO4 but having little luck figuring it out so far.

  64. Leo

    Which Garmins past or present have the Activity Tracker function? It’s difficult to keep track(er) between the Vivo-series and the running and triathlon watches.

  65. Ruben

    Thanks for the thorough review. If I were to purchase one of these two today, it would be the 230, hands down. I’m not keen on the idea of bundling HR functionality in a running watch. Neither am I a fan of the HR sensor “nip” in the underbelly of the watch. The one unrelated surprise of your analysis was how wildly inaccurate the Polar A360 HR data was. I’m thinking it’s recording way too slow _and_ averaging out at the same time.

  66. Alex

    Hey, Ray.

    Thanks for the review. You mention that the performance of the optical hr is significantly different on the vivosmart hr and the fr235. Is this limited largely to workouts, or have you been seeing differences in the activity tracker mode? I’m looking for something to capture 24/7 hr decently (largely so I can keep track of resting hr), but I already use a fr920xt for pretty much all of my workouts, so dropping $300+ for the fr235 is much less appealing than $150 for the vivosmart hr.

    • David

      Alex, it’s unclear the real performance differences in HR between the 235 and VSHR but based on many, many posts here and on the Garmin forums it appears the difference is subtle at best, it’s not like the VSHR is woeful or something. Also the weaknesses of optical HR almost always come out under intense workouts not the normal 24/7 monitoring so I suspect for your needs the VSHR would not only give identical HR performance for your needs it would be ideal.

  67. Theodoros

    Hello Ray! Which screen has more clear colours? Fr235 or Fenix 3? Thanks..

  68. Bruce Ritchie

    Great review, thanks! I love the rolling pin held up by 9 volt batteries – that’s just awesome staging !

  69. Phil McEvoy

    Hi Ray,
    I see that you give outside light as one cause of problems with optical heart rate accuracy. Have you tried running in a top with long sleeves and the watch under a sleeve? This should cut out a lot of the light. I have a top with sleeves and it would be easy to look under it to see the watch when I wanted to.


    • Jamie Jenkins

      If you wear a dark top over the watch then what is the point in having it other than to look at the metrics after the run.

  70. John FR630

    Hi Ray, I have noticed an issue on the 630 that might also be applicable to the 230, or even 235. When I first put on the HRM, (that came with the 630), it reads high, (around 30 to 40 bpm high).

    For example, today I popped the HRM on to see my HR hover around 82-86 bpm. For comparison I put on my Polar HRM and Polar watch which read my resting HR correctly around 40-42 bpm. To further test this, I put on my Wahoo Tickr-X paired with my smart phone, my HR agreed with the Polar. After 2-3 minutes the 630 displayed HR drops down fairly quickly to match the other two sensors.

    Has anyone seen anything similar on the 230/235/630?

    • Tim Grose

      Not seen that but is the strap dry when you put it on? If so, try wetting the electrodes under the tap and see if any better.

  71. Rick M.


    I think you mentioned in comments somewhere that it’s possible that the 225 would receive an update that would allow it to re-broadcast HR data. Is that still the case, or did Garmin backtrack on that?
    (Great writeup, thanks!)

  72. J Hanson

    I got the 230 on the 13th of November and have been really liking it so far, not to many things that have made me rethink my purchase. The battery life is fine for me (in two weeks I’m almost needing to recharge it) and I use it for a workout nearly 6 days a week. I hope some things get fixed in updates coming soon but if anything I might even upgrade to the 630 or even Fenix 3.

  73. Dotdude

    DCR- Great review. Thank you!.
    I’ve had the 235 for a week. Got it in time for a marathon. It worked without any problems. I find it to be very comfortable. The ‘nip’ for the HRM is not noticeable. My question is that the review shows that it can display 4 fields during a run. My watch can only display 3, unless there is a way to change it (It’s not in the manual). Is this another spec that shows up on some watches and not in others? I don’t have indoor biking on my watch, which is running software version 3.10 (0271c0f).

    I haven’t had the extreme battery problems, although I have been recovering from the marathon and not been using the GPS. My watch was around 65% 4 days after a full charge and running the marathon.

    For those who use the alarms, the vibration alarm is enough to wake me up. It’s not as strong as the Fitbit Charge HR, but it does work. It does not have a snooze function, which I do miss

    Has anyone tried using any of the options from the IQ Connect site? Any favorites out there?

  74. John

    Is there any way of stopping the last lap when the running watch is stopped?

    This is what drives me mad with the Garmin 220. It makes it hard to do track workouts, because you can’t get the exact interval times.

    (You finish one interval and hit stop. Then you start the next one, and try to hit start and then lap as quickly as possible, but you’ll always lose a second or half a second on the lap. Since the inaccuracy is at both sides, this makes every lap one to two seconds off. And frankly, dealing with it is too much mental effort when I’m putting everything into the running.)

    • Tim Grose

      Don’t understand why you are pressing Stop at the end of an interval? At the track, with any Forerunner, I press Lap at the start and end of each interval and get my interval time and recovery times just fine.

  75. Jeff S

    Thanks for the awesome review Ray.

    Apparently the little icon of the dude on the bike in the virtual racer on the FR230/235 uses a LIMITS PM. That’s why they say it’s there but you can’t see it. ;-D

    Happy Turkey day to all in the States. Thankful for DC Rainmaker and his awesomeness.

  76. Mitch

    First, thanks! for another excellent review.

    Question: when you suggest the kinks will be worked out on the optical sensor over time, do you mean hardware or software tweaks? If the former it might make sense to wait before purchasing.

    Thanks again!

  77. Dries

    Maybe the answer is out there somewhere, but…
    Will the 235 get multisport like the forerunner 305 (and 920xt) had?
    It’s the only thing I currently miss on my 620 when run-bike-running.
    A simple lap and shift from running to cycling is enough…

  78. Brandon

    Great review; question, my main sport is cycling, and i cross train with running. Like most people i hate wearing a HR strap. I was excited to see the inclusion of the optical hr sensor in the 235, and even more excited to see that could pair the hr data to my edge device. As a result, I sold my FR220, and was planning on purchasing the 235. After reading your review, it sounds like i should save my money and probably purchase the 230 instead, and stick w the hr strap? Thoughts? Do you think the HR issues can be resolved via software or is this more of a hardware issue. Lastly, any comments on the battery life of the 230? Thanks, Brandon

  79. Darryl

    Outstanding job as always! I live in North Georgia and like to do a trail run once/wk. Has anyone look at GPS only vs. GPS & GLONASS to determine if there really is any improvement in maintaining satellite lock when using both? If so please comment, thanks for your time.

  80. Mark I.

    Four days with the 235. My experience so far:

    1) I’ve gotten more calorie burn credit from the 235 than from the Rhythm+ paired with Vivosmart (original). Not sure who is right. This is because the heart rate monitor has been measuring my cross training HR a little more intense.
    2) Backlight is noticably better than on the Vivosmart HR. This can’t be understated, as the VSHR went back to Best Buy partly for low light (in)visibility.
    3) The 235 is clearly a running watch first, and cross-training watch second. It implies as much with its choice of activities (Run, Run Indoor, Bike, Other). Was at the gym today and I’d look at my HR after a set, and I know my HR was registering significantly lower, then would recover to a HR more expected. Drops out much less on more cardio-centric/continuous activity.
    4) I’d like the ability to name an activity, and set which functions are activated (HRM on or off, GPS on or off). But again, it’s a running watch first, so I get I’m trying to do something akin to getting a pickup truck to handle better in the corners.
    5) Would like to more directly navigate to watch face choices. Currently that choice is 8 or so button pushes deep into menus. May seem like a small thing, but I like the simplicity of one of the available faces most of the time, yet occasionally want a data-driven face outside of an activity.
    6) Owners manual seems to imply you can get to some of the system settings on the watch directly with one button push and one scroll, but the system menu is buried a level behind the activities (Run, Run Indoor, Bike, Other).
    7) I guess you need GPS on to get weather on the watch, or else ‘App Connection Required.’ I think an intuitive feature for the 235 would be that if you sit on the weather screen for 1-2 seconds, it temporarily would turn on GPS to grab weather at your location, then turn it off when you either left the weather screen or after the weather data has been successfully grabbed.

    Overall, far more impressed with what the 235 tries to be, compared to what the VSHR fails to be. I’ve done some interim charges so can’t yet speak to battery life, and haven’t tested the GPS feature yet. Will add those comments when I get a little more time with this unit. Very much appreciate Ray’s detailed review, and the contributions of many to this forum. Yesterday I showed up for a quick jam session with our neighborhood band, The rhythm guitarist saw the 235 on my wrist, and asked where I got it, and I said clevertraining as recommended by DCRainmaker. And he says, “No way. I’m on that site all the time. Ray is great.” So congrats to this site’s reach and relevance making its way into a random conversation in Spring, TX.

    • David

      The Vivosmart uses a basic Garmin algorithm for determining calorie burn. The Forerunner watches like the 235 use a more detailed algorithm from FirstBeat that has been licensed by Garmin. This might explain the calorie differences.

  81. Long Run Nick

    Ray, another masterful review. I love my 235. 5 runs, a little over 40 miles. Been nearly spot on. Did a 5K Turkey Trot this morning, Max HR hit 191, same as what it has been for about the last year when I really kick it, which isn’t that often. My VO2 max is close to what I recorded with my 920xt over the last year.GPS reflected 3.18 vs 3.1. 6000 runners, had to weave around a lot of younger,slower runners:). Ran a 25:49, age graded-for me 72- shows a 18:44. Back in my 40’s I would run between1745-1830.
    Thanks for all you do.

  82. Satanas

    If I read correctly the manual, the 235 maximum battery time is 11h, not 16h (like the 230).
    The comparison table mentions “up to 16hrs”.

  83. Lennart Rasmusson

    Could the 235 be used for cross-country skiing as well as running? I would like to track distance, heart rate and time but keep the activities separate.

    • v

      hi, i have the same question regarding xc skiing 🙂 it seems to me 230 + hr strap (or other separate optical sensor) would be better solution here.

      xc skiing can be kept in ‘Other’ profile of the watch, such way it will be separated from running workouts. however it is a shame on Garmin that they do not allow us to create whatever profiles we want, to separate different activities – skiing, kayaking, walking, etc 🙁 hope they will fix it in future fw releases. it would be silly not to do so.

      230 looks pretty attractive for tracking xc skiing and kayaking… i think i like them and want to have. it’s the first gps watch with rather good battery life – which is critical feature for me 🙂 before i used my Edge 500 and Edge 520 to track my xc skiing sessions but they are bulky – it’s not a big problem, on the other hand 230 is better for this task 🙂

    • Lennart Rasmusson

      I thought 235 with built-in HR for continuous use and running and the chest strap I already have for cycling and skiing, if necessary.

  84. Sam

    Great write up as always. Many thanks, now just waiting for your weight scales write up before giving Garmin a big bag of cash

  85. Peter

    Can anyone please explain me this?

    With 24 her heart rate monitoring activated, when you press the down button, it will showy out your heart rate.

    Next to the heart rate there is another number. I can’t read the letters preceding it (HDR hds, …in Dutch language) What does this number represent? Have been unable to find that in the manual….

    • Satanas

      The HDR should be the resting heart rate. I am French and my watch shows FCR (fréquence cardiaque de repos) or resting heart rate.
      This is the lowest heart rate value recorded by the watch.

    • Peter

      Thank you very much. Ou en français: merci bien mon cher ami!

  86. Dan Andrew

    Great review, helped be out a lot. Nothing to ask just wanted to show my appreciation.

  87. Bill L

    Thanks for the thorough review, Ray. It still leaves me with some questions regarding the quirks mentioned:

    1. The short battery life concerns me. I’m still using a MOTOACTV which was great in every respect expect for needing charging before each run. 2-2.5 days is a big improvement over that, but still not good.

    2. The problems of the OR readings concern me as well. The question is, are these things that can truly be fixed with a download? Is there a chance they’ll improve the actual OR reader itself in the future, so it might be worth waiting for that? Regarding cycling, I figure I could always wear a strap on a bike ride if it really is an issue, but the idea of the 235 is to avoid that.

    3. Is the backlight really as dim as some say? I saw your reply on the issue below, and note that in the pictures you post, it does look dim. The numbers look more like grey on white rather than black and white, but so many factors influence how the pictures are showing up on my computer that it might not be an issue about the watch at all. Seeing a picture of it may not be believing!

    So, the ultimate question really is: Would we feel stupid in 6 months for having purchased this one now only to have Garmin release an updated version that has fixed all the problems, but that requires new hardware? Then we’d be in the same position of the 220/225 owners. Having seen Garmin do that to their customers once very recently, we shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again.

    (BTW, a friend of mine was able to get Garmin C.S to swap out his 225 for 235 for the cost of the different retail price.)

    So, since you have some deeper knowledge of Garmin than we do, what do you think? Any reason to wait on the 235? You noted the jury was somewhat out for you as well. Are you going to buy it with the expectation that the problems will be fixed with downloads, or are you going to wait?


  88. Ron James

    Great review, as are all the reviews you provide. I currently use a 610, I’ve been looking at the 235 since they made the announcement and am seriously considering the upgrade. I’ve been looking at something to use as an everyday watch with activity tracking and notifications and as an android/Samsung phone user, had been leaning to the Gear S2. But the 235 seems like it would do most of the things I would want out of a smartwatch and would also be an upgrade to the running statistics that I normally nerd over. One question – Can you pair the watch with more than one phone (not at the same time) and then easily switch between the two devices? I use a Samsung phone as my everyday normal phone, except for when I run. For that, I use my work iPhone because it’s much more compact and easier to tote around. Can I easily switch between phones when I head out on my runs? Thanks.

  89. john

    I’ve now had it for a few days. I had a number of concerns regarding size, comfort, optical accuracy, etc. I am reasonably satisfied with the hr monitor. It is pretty close to where i’d expect it to be. Much better than the charge HR. Battery life is the only ding so far. It is very comfortable- better than the 620.

  90. Brenton Barnard

    As we know there is no Virtual Partner in the FR235 but it does have finish time predictor. Ray, Does the finish time predictor allow you to fill in “both” distance and time as does the FR920, therefore giving you a VP result anyway. I used this feature on the 920 during my marathons and it’s brilliant.

    • Peter

      No, it only allows you to set distance. The screen will then show remaining distance, estimated arrival time and average pace. There is a pic of this in Ray’s excellent review somewhere.

  91. Bob

    I have to say that Garmin almost nailed it with the 230, for me.

    I wanted a device that I could use for activity tracking and the occasional run but also act as a back of for cycling. I am primarily a cyclist. But the most important things to me were comfort and battery life. Plus I wanted it to look like a normal watch, be more business appropriate.

    The fenix 3 is just to heavy. The vioactive’s battery life just didn’t cut it at about real world 2 weeks max. I absolutely didn’t want optical HR due the battery life penalty/bigger device.

    This nailed it minus a few small things that really aren’t that important to me. It would have been nice to have more cycling features like power, but I currently don’t own a power meter. I would have liked it to be all black.

  92. Mike Young

    How tight does one have to wear the 235 to get good results? I use a Mio with my 910 and get good results but really have to tighten it down quite a bit.

    • Alex L

      I’ve got a similar question in regards to all the 24×7 optical HR monitors, Do they need to tight on your wrist or are they getting better results with the watches been worn a bit looser like a normal watch? I wouldn’t like to wear anything on my wrist all day/night as tight as I wear the Mio Fuse when I’m using the HR sensor.

    • David

      i get very good 24/7 accuracy when i wear the watch fairly loose but not enough it slides up and down my arm like some bangle bracelet or something. it is loose enough to not leave any marks. when i run i do tighten it down quite a bit but i have no idea if that is necessary, just i’m used to doing it before workouts with optical HR sensors. i think the tightening down is more necessary when you have higher heart rates during workouts vs. daily wear.

  93. David Compton

    How do the models compare in terms of comfort when wearing them? Does the HR “bump” make the 235 any less comfortable to wear all day (& perhaps all night if using the sleep monitor function)? Thanks for your detailed reviews!

    • David

      loose or tight you never, ever, feel the bump on the back of the watch. it feels 100% like a flat bottomed watch all the time. when you crank down on the tightness (which i do a bit when i run, not sure i have to that much but it isn’t that bad) it will leave an imprint where the HR sensor was, but again you never feel the bump. when worn looser (but not sliding up and down my arm) it doesn’t leave a mark. it is easily as comfortable as any watch I own.

  94. rick

    i just received my 230 in the mail, and i have been trying to sort through all the features. I am trying to set the back light to stay on all the time, especially for night runs, but even when i set up to “stays on” the light goes off in a few seconds. is this just because the watch is out of the box and the battery is only 35%? Also, I cannot seem to figure out how to set up the screen for four data fields, nor find the finish time predictor. i could have sworn you mentioned that the watch had these features. Is that correct, or am i just dreaming?

    • David

      someone from garmin mentioned on the forums that the menu setting for backlight only applies to when an activity/workout is in progress. at all other times the timeout remains 5 seconds so perhaps you set it to always on while playing with the menus but didn’t try to actually start a workout?

    • rick

      Thank’s, David. I didn’t even think of that. There may be times when I want the light to remain on when I am not in an activity. I was thinking that the “stays on” feature would be enabled whenever you pressed the light button. I figured if I pressed it to “on”, it would just stay on until i turned it off. Oh well. thank for your insight I will check it out when I go for a run.

  95. David

    Weird bug I’ve discovered with the FR235 and the iOS Garmin Connect App with the new feature that voice announces lap times…

    When playing music/podcasts etc. when you hit your autolap point and the watch plays the voice stating the lap time and pace when the voice ends the music/podcast sound volume reduces by nearly half is my guess. the problem is according to my iOS device i didn’t lower the volume so i can only turn it higher, and if I was already fairly high it won’t go higher and i’m stuck with the lower volume level until i end my workout at which time the volume immediately jumps up to normal. this is with an iPhone 6S, iOS 9.1, and a pair of bluetooth plantronic back beat fit headphones. it is reproducible 100% of the time.

    • Tony McKay

      Not sure that’s a Garmin problem. I have exactly the same thing happen with Runkeeper on iPhone 6 ios9. All’s well till first voice announcement, then music resumes at far lower volume, and can’t be restored until the end of the workout. Sounds like an audio conflict somewhere in ios.

    • David

      Thanks hopefully that’s a fix coming from Apple then.

    • Michael (Warsaw)

      Well, I have the same volume issue on Android with Polar Beat + TuneIn streaming radio or podcast app …

    • Alan

      I noticed this same issue today, on my very first run with my new 230. I was vert disappointed. I did a bit of a search and wound lots of similar, but not exact, examples associated with notifications. In those cases folks reported that the volume level reverted to normal after a period of time – not my experience today.

      The voice prompts were part of why I wanted one of these new units. I do hope that there is a solution soon.

    • Chris

      iSmoothRun works just fine when it ducks the volume down for announcements. It does not pause audio well unless it is playing through the app. I usually run with my playlist on Spotify or Overcast playing a podcast.

    • Tim S

      One thing you can try to fix the lower audio volume is cycle your phone’s mute switch on (to mute) then back off again. I’ve noticed that when I’m listening to music or podcasts, if I get a notification it lowers the volume, then eventually restores itself. Cycling the mute switch does this right away.

      Not sure if this will be the same issue, but thought I’d suggest if it helps…

  96. jay

    Garmin’s website lists the dimensions of these as exactly the same. (45 x 45 x 11.7 mm).

    On the 230, what’s where the optical sensor is on the 235? Is it just flat there? Does that make it more comfortable?

    Got a picture of the back of the 230?

    Thanks for the great review (as always!).

  97. Jugy

    Thanks for a very useful review. In the Running features list you indicate a “NO” for Running Dynamics though the Garmin Connect page shown (with the Training Effect highlighted in yellow) displays Running Dynamics such as SPM and Stride length.

    • Brenton Barnard

      The running dynamics that the 6xx/920 series offers are things like ground contact time, vertical oscillation as well as a few others. SPM/Cadence and stride length are standard features on the 2xx series.

    • Yeah, Garmin decided at some point to rename/re-group ‘Cadence’ into running dynamics, mostly as a marketing ploy. The rest of the world still disagrees. 😉

  98. Daniel

    Hi Ray!

    Thx for the review! Very good as always…

    One question. Are watch the same size as 620 and 220 so that you can use 620 and 220 bands also on 230 and 630? Would give plenty of new color combinations 🙂

    Best regards!

  99. Alex

    Ray, thanks for that great review.
    Am I right that we can range HR optical sensors like below
    1. Mio
    2. Garmin
    3. Polar

    • SS76

      TOMTOM on par with Garmin

    • Like Garmin, there are two different sensors for the TomTom.

      TomTom Cardio: Uses Mio sensors
      TomTom Spark: Uses LifeQ sensors
      Garmin FR225: Uses Mio sensor
      Garmin FR235: Uses Garmin Elevate sensor

      In general I’d rate them:

      1) Scosche/Valencell
      2) Mio brands (very close behind, but slightly behind because there are more cases where upper-arm works better than wrist)
      3) Garmin Elevate
      4) TomTom with LifeQ
      5) Everything else

    • jaxon

      I agree with this rate. Seems Garmin’s sensor is not close to Mio’s.

  100. Phil McEvoy

    You are exactly right. I want to run 200m intervals on a track with a HR as accurate as possible that I can view after the session. GPS would be of no use and I could use either timed alerts on the watch or my “normal” watch in stopwatch mode on the other wrist. I could even use a wristband over the watch to keep the light out and the watch steady. A similar session would be possible running in a park running 30s fast and 30s slow. I was just wondering if this would improve HR accuracy.

  101. Eric James

    Help! Weird issue with my 235. Got the watch on Monday and several times the HR just shows as a steady 66. No matter what I do it doesn’t change. A power restart has worked to reset it sometimes. Although I just tried that and it still shows 66. Anyone else having this issue?
    Also, charged it up to 100% yesterday at noon. Now at 55-60%. No workouts, just continuous HR. Very disappointed with the lies Garmin stated about the battery life!

    • Mike Young

      Is that a 230 or a 235? Based on Ray’s comments above that appears to be a 230. He said the 230 has the white trim and the 235 does not.

    • Eric James

      It’s a 235.

    • David

      Never seen that, always worked for me. Also I still see no battery issue which is concerning to me that this is a wide ranging hardware issue. Everyday I grow more stumped because I’ve now had the 235 for 4.5 days, used it just over an hour with GPS+GLOSNASS, synced to my iPhone 6S with Bluetooth the entire time, perhaps 10-15 notifications a day and have had the 24×7 HR monitoring on the whole time… MY BATTERY HAS YET TO HIT 50%. I’m not sure how you are all seeing the exact % but I certainly see the battery icon and I am a hair above 50%! This isn’t even close to folks reporting 25%-50% losses in a day or 2. The only thing I’m doing different is I haven’t had a ton of long workouts usin GPS but that isn’t enough the explain the difference.

    • Jamie Jenkins

      Got mine today.

      All was well but it then froze. Hard reset and now it’s doing exactly the same as yours, stuck on 66.

    • Jamie Jenkins

      Here is the photo. Cannot get it to change at all heart rate not coming up when you click to start run.

      Will try the beta firmware later or on day one it’s going back to Garmin.

    • Jamie Jenkins

      Have updated to the beta firmware 3.13 and still stuck on 66 heart rate. Has not moved from this for 5 hours now.

      Looks like its time to contact Garmin.

    • Jamie Jenkins

      Have sent an email to Garmin support and fully expect them to say to return it.

      The heart rate screen it stays constantly on 66 but when you start a workout it picks up no heart rate at all. The lights are on though.

    • Matt

      This is strange — mine is doing the exact same thing now. Stuck at 66. It’s worked fine for the past week or so too.

    • Jamie Jenkins

      Garmin got back and said I could either return to place of purchase or them. Given the place I bought has no stock, it’s removed from website, I need them to sort it.

      Have tried switching on and off several times but it’s not moved from 66. Given there are three people here with the same problem there is definitely an issue somewhere.

      Just waiting for them to get back to me to send back. Luckily I have the tried and tested FR225 on hand.

    • Philippe

      Received my FR235 just now. When I first put it on, it showed a changing heart rate. Then I hooked it up to the computer and firmware 3.10 got installed. Ever since heart rate is stuck at 66. 🙁

      Great… paying 350$ to play beta tester.

    • Philippe

      Beta 3.13 fixed this for me…

    • Jamie Jenkins

      I updated to 3.13 and had same issue. Obviously a bug somewhere. Mine is currently back with Garmin.

    • Philippe

      yeah must be a bug. Will let you know if mine gets stuck again.

    • JD

      I was having a similar issue. Try this:

      1- plug your FR235 to your computer
      2- launch the garmin folder and delete everything in it (this won’t harm anything.)
      3- copy the GUPDATE.GCD from the 3.13 beta package to the GARMIN folder
      4- unplug the FR235
      5- Select install from the watch

      This should fix the heart rate issue and many other issues. I found that some of the files were not being updated when you just copied the GUPDATE.GCD to the GARMIN folder. The update will repopulate all the folders and files again.

    • Beckie Hobgood

      I just got my 235 today and it is doing the same thing…how frustrating.

  102. samuel

    Hi Ray

    I have just been bought a Garmin 225 for xmas (still in box and with receipt), would It be worth swapping this for the 230 as the difference in price will be about £20 (not including a heart rate strap)

    • David michaud

      Swap it for sure!!! The screen size alone makes it worth it. I’d go 230 plus scosche plus optical though. Optical on wrist is way too limited, especially where wrist is in tension or you’re wearing running gloves but want to see you watch. Garmin will eventually realize we need the chest strap still but without straps. Peel and stick heart rate monitors are the next big thing

    • Marcel

      Perhaps they will be – but I seem to recall that a company heavily invested in developing those had a kickstarter campaign for them, and then cancelled it and said they would be developing for the medical industry only… so I wonder who else is out there developing this.
      Also: while the idea of ‘peel and stick’ appeals to me, I wouldn’t like to have use a new sticker for every run.

  103. Tomasz

    Thanks for the review. Very useful as usual.
    Went straight to shop and got 230.

  104. Jim Baker

    Great Review! Thanks

  105. Manu

    Hi Ray,

    thanks for this great review, once again!
    I’m looking into a new watch that I can use for running and sometimes for cycling, too. Could I pair the 235 with my Scosche Rhythm+ to get accurate HR data when cycling?


  106. MikeyD

    Am I correct that the 235 should be able to control a Virb Elite?

  107. cesar

    This or TomTom Spark for running and gym workouts?

    • Carl Andersson

      Hey cesar – probably a bit late with my reply but I currently have a Tomtom Spark and I just bought the Forerunner 235. The Spark is great for runs, but a bit crap for gym work.
      Having moved from a Fitbit Surge the biggest problem I found with the Spark is it’s lack of 24/7 HR tracking. My gym workouts are short but intense. The Surge did a great job of factoring in the “after-burn” effect of those workouts. The Spark couldn’t because it doesn’t currently do 24/7 HR tracking. I’m expecting the 235 will do a better job of tracking my total calorie burn.
      In terms of the actual workout tracking – the Spark really struggled. The Fitbit did a much better job of locking onto my actual heart-rate.
      The biggest problem with the Fitbit Surge was build quality – after replacing it 3 times in 9 months I gave up and switched to the Spark.

      The only reason at this stage that I could suggest the Spark over the Forerunner 235 would be if you want to be able to run with music but not carry a phone or ipod. It works really well in that case.

  108. Urko

    Someone has received the 235 from CT in europe? A y extra cost in the borders?

  109. nezro5000

    Used my FR230 yesterday in the first 5k with it and loved it overall. Except for some areas when the pace number went wacky when running around some building cover.

    One question I had was about the band size. I would much rather use a leather or canvas/fabric strap. Are any available? Would the vivoactive leather band work with it?

  110. leo

    Hi Ray,

    thanks for the in-depth details review. it helps a lot.

    I just got the 235 on Wednesday. Fully charged it at night (it showed 45% from the watch when i unboxed it, and charged it to 100%).

    I had left the bt on and connected to my phone with the garmin mobile connect app. I had the DND on so the notification wont keep showing up on my watch. I had the wrist turn light on,

    For much of my surprise, when i woke up on Thursday morning, the battery life shows 72% (or 76% which i don’t recall it now).

    Did you experience the battery life draining so quick once it BT to the phone with the app opened?

    I recalled in your in-depth review that the battery is definitely not up to what Garmin’s website said and is it something you can mention to the Garmin to review the issue?



    • As noted, I did reach out to Garmin regarding the battery life issues I saw, and they did not disagree. Rather, they noted a fix is coming.

      The exact wording was: “We have recently discovered a bug with the heart rate sensor where it is drawing more current when off than it’s supposed to, and this is probably the issue that you’re seeing. We have a fix in the works that will be forthcoming in a software update very soon. We will be testing the fix in the next week or two, and if it proves out okay we will release it to the public ASAP.”

      Keep in mind that when doing a simple overnight test the optical sensor actually isn’t used very often, since you’re not very active. Also, each of those days I used the watch in GPS mode for 1hr (with optical enabled). All of which make it quite a bit different than it basically getting to take a nap for a few hours overnight. 😉

    • Leo

      Thanks and I can’t wait to have the new sw to fix the battery issue.

  111. leo

    another question i have is

    can i turn off the 24/7 HRM tracker and only automatically activate when the running app is running (the running app means the running profile records using the GPS)

    i do not think there is an option, but would be happy to see that from Garmin next software update so i can save the battery life.

    • Daniel Ethier

      I would like to see this too. My 235 is sitting on my bureau with the LEDs shining. That’s just silly. Can’t believe Garmin didn’t think of this.

  112. Chrisgg

    You show the FR230 with post-run cadence data displayed (which particularly interests me), along with HR, Training Effect etc., On your Garmin Connect page it also works out stride length for the activity. I assume the cadence information comes from the internal accelerometer…… but must you connect the HR strap for this data and if so which particular strap?

    • I received the 230 for Christmas – love it!
      Chrissgg, I was not expecting to see Cadence recorded with the 230. I couldn’t figure out whether or not it showed after reading this review. So I was expecting to buy a foot pod. However, it does record cadence – without an HR strap. (Ray says here that the 230 wouldn’t record running dynamics, even with the fancier HR monitor.) I don’t necessarily need all those stats – I only wanted cadence. I’m happy to say it does record cadence without an HR monitor. Although, I’m now using an older HR monitor anyway- that doesn’t have anything to do with cadence. Anyway, I’m super happy with this watch. As always, your reviews help me tremendously, Ray. I used the link and purchaed from Clever Training (thanks for the coupon!) 🙂

  113. Jim

    Thank you for the in-depth review, once again!

    Maybe I missed it but: is the instant pace display in 5-second increments only, as in only displaying 6:15, 6:20, 6:25, etc.?

    • Tim Grose

      Yes – it does that on all Forerunners now – GPS is just not precise enough to display it to every second accuracy and I find this helps to give you a fairly stable reading.

    • Jim

      Well that’s too bad. My old 310XT does it in 1-sec. increments. It fluctuates more of course to have finer increments, but I can pace myself to a target pace with +/- 1-2 second range and finds it helpful for training to run very even paces, but if that doesn’t show on the watch and it just flickers back and forth between 6:45 and 6:50 then the watch is not as helpful.

    • Tim Grose

      You probably want to use lap pace then for such an exact pacing guidance. That is shown to the second not rounded. There is also the Set a Target feature.

    • Barney

      You could also use the Virtual Racer app from the IQ store, I’ve used it and it’s alright, infact I’ll be doing a 10k race tonight using it.

    • Cori Alcorn

      Barney, Which “virtual racer” app are you using? I see the Virtual Pacer data field and the Race Pacer data field. Was just wondering which app you are using.

  114. Eric

    I have a question about Garmin Connect. I’m seeing what I think is a fairly common issue: maximum values that are higher than what the data curves suggest. For example, in a recent run my Maximum Cadence and Maximum HR were both higher (by 1) than the graphs reflected in Garmin Connect. Is this something that I’ll just have to deal with—admittedly it’s not a big deal—or is there some kind of calibration that would make a difference? Also, is it just a fact of life that the elevation readings are generally pretty crappy (particularly the elevation gain and loss per interval)? If so, why even have the feature?

  115. Adrian

    What app did you use to plot the different HR series on the same chart?

  116. Hi All-

    Given the questions on the backlight brightness, I’ve added a new section discussing it, with photos.

    You’ll find it here: link to dcrainmaker.com


  117. Chris

    Hello Ray!

    Do you know what sort of algorithm they use to estimate “finish time?” Do they just use your average pace so far and then extrapolate from there? Or will that take into account that I’ve been slowly dying for the last few k’s?

    As always, thank you for the amazingly in-depth review!

  118. Matt

    Ray, do you have any thoughts about the “Back to Start” feature? Seems pretty self-explanatory and perhaps not a major feature, but did you have any impressions?

    • Tim Grose

      It’s very useful if you get lost! In fact I used it (on another device) when I went for a run with Ray about a year ago and I wasn’t quite sure how far it was back to his hotel! It’s an “as the crow flies” arrow and a distance but, for running, that is usually fine.

    • It’s pretty straight forward, like you guessed. I actually put some initial thoughts in my preview post here about it: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Even a video in there too! I’ve got some other unpublished pics around navigation I’ll port into this review sometime this weekend.

  119. KJ

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks for all the answers!

    Just one more question on my end, will the Garmin 235 be able to use the Scosche Rhythm+ sensor over the internal optical sensor?

    I ask since I prefer something more accurate & I plan on buying the Rhythm+ for my Garmin 520.

    • Peter

      In that case would it not be more logical (and cheaper) to buy a 230 without the heart rate strap?

    • KJ

      Agreed. I’m considering a return but there is something nice in a very geeky way about having a 24/7 heart rate tracker.

      But I ask mostly out of curiosity.

  120. Sudheer

    Ray, I have been looking forward to your review on 235! And it did not disappoint!

    Quick question: how long does it take to charge the watch? Given that it is an activity tracker as well, I’d like to be able to charge it while taking a shower. but otherwise would like to have it on the wrist at all times. It is good that I can charge it while wearing it, but that still means I am tied down.

    • It’s not very quick to charge unfortunately. I’m guessing in the shower you might get 5-10% tops. I usually charged it at my desk while I was working (actually, sometimes just like the photo you see above with the battery charger).

      My guess is 60-90mins to charge fully, maybe a tough more.

  121. Kiwi Paul

    Ray, superb review. – many thanks I’m not a runner but active racket sports (squash) player and high intensity gym trainer. I’m keen for a device that is a one stop shop data gatherer, including HRM for exercise comparison, with no need for strap that I can simply wear all day. 235 seems best device so far, but keen to understand if it is really more designed for runners. If so, what else should I look at? I currently use Mio Fuse which is great for HRM but limited for specific workouts if I can be bothered to wear it and log on to Wahoo etc

  122. Jeremy

    Thanks for the great review!

  123. RAJ

    Love my FR 235 except for screen brightness. Its very hard to see even with backlight on. I must be missing something.

  124. rick

    how does the race predictor work? i cannot seem to set that particular function set on my data fields. What am i doing wrong?

    • Earl The Patriot

      You need to set your user profile (age, weight, height, and most importantly MaxHR) and go on a run that results in a VO2 max being calculated and displayed. Then, the race predictor will show you a screen with expected 5k/10k/HM/M times.

    • rick

      Thank you, Patriot.

  125. Jeff E.

    Can you sync the Garmin 230/235 activity data to Apple Health?

    • David

      Garmin Connect for iOS syncs steps, “active calories” (but there is a more than year long bug causing them to sync TOTAL calories ruining this, walking+running distance. you can manually select which of the 3 categories you want so i deselect active calories since it is wrong. Garmin Connect will NOT update FROM Apple Health, only TO Apple Health.

      I like using Apple Health to see the total of my Apple Watch + 235 step counts.

  126. Jon

    Glass(plastic) not centered
    Hi, just got my 235 today and noticed the screen was not centered. I can put a fingernail down the bottom side of the watch, but the top half is tight against the bezel. Anyone else with this problem?

  127. Alan

    As a recent bitter purchaser of the 225, it was refreshing to see that the 235 HR functionality had its weaknesses during interval/hill repeat work. Given the annoying “too fast” and “too slow” HR messages that appear when using their pre-loaded training plan workouts due to HR zone misses, frustration due to those sorts of issues are definitely compounded.

    Still, I’m sure some of the bitterness could be offset if Garmin would throw us FR225 purchasers a bone in the form of a software update that provides some cycling support (i.e. mode selection so I’m not botching up my running PRs every time I bike, and the ability to load bike training plans), less device crashing, maybe a VO2 max estimate, or a 3 field plus HR gauge screen.

  128. Martin

    Hi Ray. Thanks for the review.

    I’m wondering how come you are Still in easy Z2 at 150- 160bpm

    I get out of the zone 2 at 133 with à Max hr of 190. I am 30 yo.

    Thank you again.

  129. Sudheer

    Hi Ray, thanks for the response about charging. Couple of more questions around HR Monitor.
    1) how well does it perform on sweaty hands? I have surge and it blanks out (“–“) when I get sweaty. And you know how hard it is not to sweat during a workout 🙂
    2) any sensor performance difference that you know of on hairy hands or different skin color?

    • 1) No issues with sweat, I did a treadmill workout where I ended quite drenched (LT test, and for some reason the gym I was in was rather heated).

      2) I haven’t heard of any issues yet with the Elevator sensor on the FR235 there, but I suspect it may take a few more weeks to get clarity from others on that.

  130. Vincenzo

    Hi Ray, thanks for the detailed review. Such a shame they have removed the virtual partner from fr 235, it was one of the main reasons that made me chose it over the 620 🙁

    Anyway, I have tried the watch for an easy and flat run but after almost 10 minutes of running all of the sudden the hr monitor got crazy going from 130bmp to 160bmp and more in one step!

    link to connect.garmin.com

    It looks it got locked to my cadence till the end of the run, did it ever happen to some of you? That makes the hr monitor unusable

    • chrisgg

      Thanks for showing the FR235 graphs…I’ll definitely not be buying a 235 now! I think the 230 with a heart strap sounds a better idea. Your data and that of Ray shows that Garmin has simply not perfected the optical HR sensor yet. If cadence is throwing out the HR like this out it’s no use to me. HR straps have been mentioned occasionally to be affected by cadence but I’ve had no trouble with my Garmin FR305 strap that way.

    • Vincenzo

      Yes, indeed the hr as it now is unusable in too many situation. I really hope it is something will be fixed soon with a new firmware. I didn’t expect something like that from such an expensive device

  131. Robert

    I’m looking at the 230 and trying to figure out if it’s worth the extra $$$ to spring for the heart rate monitor. I’ve got one of the older Garmin versions (like this – link to buy.garmin.com).

    Will my older heart rate monitor work with the 230? If so, any benefit at all to the newer strap??

  132. Jan

    Hey Ray, thank you for this very helpful review. One question do I still have: Is it possible to turn off the activity tracker function? I really don’t want something to track me all day.

  133. Heather Riley

    Ray or anyone else who knows : )

    I must be such a dope to have missed this, but do the new running watches FR230, 235 have running dynamics the same as the 630? If so can you please detail them for me or point me in the right direction. I will try the product comparison thingie again in the meantime. I am trying to decide between Fenix3, 630 or 235.

    Many Thanks!

    • Mike Young

      A big fat no the running dynamics with the 230/235.

      From Ray’s review:

      “It doesn’t matter though what strap you pair to the FR230/FR235, it won’t read Running Dynamics data from it.”

    • Heather Riley

      Thanks : ) I have read so many reviews on the DCR website it gets kinda confusing. Guess its between Fenix 3 and 630. Off to do some more reading!

    • chrisgg

      The FR 230/235 do have cadence, stride length, post run VO2Max and Training Effect but not the new dynamics like Ground Contact Time and Vertical Displacement Ratio etc.

  134. jaxon

    Hope you can do curves compare with 225. Seems 235’s HR sensor is worse than 225. I will keep using 225 and not buy 235.

  135. david

    Terrific review as always Ray. I’m curious about race finish time estimate. Been wanting it for years. Any idea what algorithm Garmin uses. Can’t be current pace. Should be a weighting that uses average pace and pace over last x minutes. Can you attest to how accurate the feature is. Thank you

  136. Pete

    Great review. Thank you.

    I am not a runner but wondered if I can use the 235 to track gym sessions like weights, circuit training and barre Pilates please?

    Also what is it like as a regular watch for wearing all day? Can you download an analogue face as I’m old and a bit old fashioned?

    Thanks and have a wonderful weekend.

    Pete from London UK

  137. Ray, I picked up the 630 and the 235. The 630’s touch screen is infuriatingly poor and I also find it sort of “murky” looking, like the first 620 I bought and returned – I wonder if it’s just a price you pay for the touch screen layer.

    The 235 on the other hand came this morning and I instantly fell in love with it. No touch screen (yay!), simple navigation, always on RHR review, and simple/light/clean design. Even though I have the Fenix 3 and it is one of my favorite devices of all time, I can see keeping the 235 as a light alternative for days where the Fenix 3 just feels too darned heavy.

    I’ll be sending back the 630. I just can’t stand the touch screen and I don’t need all the nerd metrics which don’t help me.

    Any idea how accurate your workout Avg HR is compared to your benchmark standards? That’s all I really care about ultimately so I can get my duration and Avg HR for any given workout so I can get a decent HRTSS calc. I mostly use it for multi-mode ride/life/ride type stuff and don’t need run/cycle metrics as much as just duration/avg HR.

    Thanks again for yet another kick-ass review.

    • Long Run Nick

      Troy, 7 runs, (over 50 miles)- I have found the avg HR to be nearly identical to readings from my 920xt with HRM Run chest strap over same routes and intensity.

    • Thanks.

      Generally speaking HR avg on a workout tends to be surprisingly close. But this is more a case of ‘slow to respond’ that works out both on the ups and downs. It’s a core reason I don’t use averages in comparison tests (of power or HR), since you can be wrong 100% of the time on real-time HR, but still be 100% right on the workout average. 🙂

    • chrisgg

      Also, as Ray mentioned, can you imagine trying to operate the 630 touchscreen on a cold winter’s day with gloves on? Taking gloves on and off is a nuisance while running and especially biking.

  138. Philippe

    Thanks Ray, great review! I’m up for ordering a FR235 myself…

    Though one question that I couldn’t find an answer in your review: When doing an indoor/treadmill run, will the FR235 estimate distance based on the step counter?


  139. david

    It uses the accelerometer to estimate distance. The accelerometer is also used to calculate steps.

  140. David Wagner

    Got my FR235 in last night, went for a 10 mile run with it this AM. I am coming from a Fitbit Surge. I had to get a refund for the Fitbit due to an allergic reaction from the band material. So far I am quite pleased with the optical HR sensor. It seems to be performing better than the Surge so far. The smart notifications also work better on the Garmin. So far I am very happy.

    • Warren

      David, after a few months with the 235 how is your assessment compared to the surge holding up? I also have a surge and am considering switching, but if the battery life is as bad as it sounds and there isn’t much improvement in the heart rate tracking (or it is even worse) it isn’t worth the cost to switch.

  141. case

    How comfortable is the fr235 with the sensor sticking out? Seems like that might get kind of annoying wearing on the wrist 24/7.

  142. Darryl

    Hey Ray, the next time you talk to Garmin on the ‘Bat Phone’ can you strongly suggest that they include a brightness adjustment setting and at least give us 230/235 owners Virtual Pacer in a future firmware upgrade to make up for the false advertising which lead some of us to purchase the watch. I attended a new release class conducted by a national Garmin rep who verbally and provided written documentation that the 230/235 had virtual pacer/racer/partner. I preordered the watch bases I the information provided by the Rep. Thanks for your time.

    • Yeah, I’ve sent back a fair bit of feedback on the Virtual Partner/etc issue already (I’m the one who brought up the discrepancy about it earlier in the week to them). I think they understand how much I think it’s crap. I suspect as they get back to work on Monday, there will be more discussions about it, based on what I wrote above (my review published late Weds their time, and Garmin had both Thurs/Fri off).

      I’d really encourage folks to contact Garmin via support tickets on the issue if it’s important to you (as it should be). While social media is nice, support tickets are trackable and clearly identifiable.

    • Peter

      I already created a ticket, and Garmin agreed to allow me to return the watch to them at their expense because of the virtual pacer etc issue. However, I found a Connect IQ app that does about that (at the expense of a datascreen), and I decided to keep the watch anyway for I quite like it for everything else, if they can manage to iron out some quirks.

      But indeed, it is inacceptable that they can’t even get the product specs right on their website. Where else should we turn then if we want to make a decision on buying one of their products?

    • Mark B

      Peter what is the Connect IQ app you are using?

      Virtual Partner is a must have item for me but if there is a suitable workaround I would be happy with that. Lack of Virtual Partner is the only thing stopping me getting the 235

    • Brenton Barnard

      Mark B, go to the IQ store and do a search on “Virtual” it should come up with Virtual Pacer from TeunMo. I’d love to tell you more but I’m having trouble trying to find wghere the damn thing goes when it’s synced with my watch 🙁

    • Brenton Barnard

      Mark B, just loaded it in my watch and just ran around the warehouse with it, it looks great, it’s just as my 920xt did it. Not as easy to input as you have to do it from the connected device and upload but in all merits, it totally fixes the Virtual pacer lacking feature, for me, it’s better than the std Virt pacer. yippee 🙂

  143. NR

    Hi Ray

    On a different note, will you do a review of Microsoft Band 2 or it is not worth a review.


  144. Martin


    On the 230/235 what does the screen look like if you press “lap”? Does it show time AND distance? Can it be configured?
    The single most annoying feature of the 220 is the lap summary screen which only shows the time, nothing else.


  145. Asaf

    I’d love to get confirmation: 230 supports Tempe sensor?

  146. Imre

    Hi all, I’m about to choose my first running watch, I’m preparing for my 3rd marathon (2016 April).
    Must haves: GPS, HRM, smartphone notifications.
    With the last condition I pretty much narrowed down things to the latest models, more specifically to FR230/235.

    For the following reasons I’m leaning to the FR230 model:
    – Shorter battery life on FR235
    – Optical HR sensor is less accurate than the traditional straps
    – If my understanding is correct the optical FRM sensor and the whole FR235 watch must stay fixed/tight on the arm whenever we’d like to monitor the HR. I don’t like plastic/rubber materials tight on me. First 1-2h it is just uncomfortable, but if I were to wear it tight all day & night (continuous HR monitoring), in a few days my skin would be irritated. Based on this logic, I’d use the FR235 optical sensor only during running, but is not as accurate, so I’ll go with the strap.

    • Brenton Barnard

      Hi Imre, I wouldn’t be concerned about how tight you need the 235 on your wrist. I’ve had the Garmin 910, 920 & 225 + (Tom Tom Cardio Multi sport) and would have to say the 235 is the most comfortable out of all. I also find I don’t need to have it as firm on the wrist as my 225 and the bonus being not having to use that damn chest strap.

  147. Kelly

    My experience so far with my 235:

    I have gone on a couple runs and used my bike on the indoor trainer, comparing all to my scosche (in the same location but on opposite wrist) and my 220. I am very very pleased with what I have experienced so far with the optical sensor. I have always had a lag with my scosche, not enough to not use it, but enough to bug me. The 235 seems to be more real-time with fluctuations. The only time there was a real discrepancy was when I sprinted out the last leg of my hill run and the scosche registered a higher heart rate when I topped out than the 235. I suspect if I had waited a few more seconds before stopping the watches, the 235 would have probably caught up with the actual HR (I believe scosche had it right based on perceived exertion and doing this run many many times). I have not yet done any major interval work to compare, but will be soon. I may keep my 220, or maybe just use my scosche with the 235 for the bike because I really like having it on the handlebars to watch my time and HR without having to let go and look at my wrist all the time. Also, I am a serious sweater and had no issues whatsoever regarding that. A bit uncomfortable to wear overnight for sleep tracking so will stick to my VSHR for that. Overall very pleased with my purchase. The band is very comfortable compared to my 220.

    • Kelly

      Oh I forgot to mention – I am miffed as well about the lack of virtual racer and the poor battery life / charging time. Holding out hope that they will fix these issues.

  148. Adri


    great review. Just a week ago I bought the 235, after using the 305 for many many many years. I thought it was time to switch from a refrigerator on my wrist to a more convenient running watch. As you observe in your test I also got the impression that the accuracy of the heart rate, especially when doing intervals, does not match the accuracy I was used to on the 305 with heart rate strap. When doing 600 m speed and 200 m rest I noticed that the recovery of the 235 is not as good as I was used to when using the 305. Let’s hope Garmin will be able to improve the heart rate accuracy in the future.

    Battery life: Indeed using it without GPS on the battery life is fine for me, but not as long as Garmin states. I was wondering whether you can plug in the USB charger directly into the electricity outlet (I’m not sure this is the right word), instead of switching on the computer each time and using the USB port form the computer to charge the 235?

    Where I’m very pleased about is the availability of data, both on Garmin Connect as on the Garmin Connect app. Really impressive, but that may also be because of my old fashioned 305, which did not support many data.

    Overall, for now, I’m pleased I got the 235.

    Thanks again for your in depth reveiw.


    • chrisgg

      I’m sure you can plug the USB into a suitable adapter plugged into the mains socket on the wall…like the adapter that came with my Garmin 305.

    • Kelly

      I tried plugging it into the adapter and into the wall (like a cell phone or my vivosmart HR, sensors, etc.) and it DID NOT WORK. I had to plug it into the computer. I tried a couple different adapters. Anyone else want to give it a shot?

    • Mike

      I tried charging from an electrical outlet too, using the block for an iPhone 5 charger. It did not charge. I was quite surprised by that.

      Ray, is this normal? If not, can you inquire about it with Garmin.


    • Mark I.

      Plugged the charge USB cable into iPad wall block. The 235 vibrates to indicate charging begins. Charged from 30% to 100% in around 2 hours.

    • Sagar

      Wow, that is really slow charging! I hope Garmin has some fix for that.

    • Leo C

      Garmin sells the ac adapter for 235. i have not tried to use the iphone or ipad charger since i am not sure the voltage different between the PC USB and the iphone / ipad charger.

      i got the ac adapter from amazon as it said it works with 235 so I can just plug it to the outlet to charge, rather than using my laptop.

      link to amazon.com

    • David

      my 235 charges just fine using either an iPhone USB block or an iPad USB block.

    • George

      My 235 charges just fine from a 5V USB outlet (built into a wall receptacle).

      It even displays a charging icon on the battery and a % charge.

  149. Lutz

    Did a 17km run today with the FR235 and had the following issues:
    – Instant pace numbers are too low, e.g. 4:30 instead of 4:00 (correct value), or 5:30 instead of 5:00 (correct). Interesting part: the recordings are ok, I did export the data to Strava, and it shows the correct pacings. Strange. This bug doesn’t seems to affect the average pacings (round, overall) – they are identically.
    – Double calories count, as it adds up step calories and activity calories (I ended up with 3.000 total – 1.500 for the run, and 1.500 for steps).
    – HR readings were indeed spiky, it tended to stuck on high values. Not really sure, needs more testing.

    Hopefully especially the pacing issue gets fixed soon.

    • Lutz

      I just wanted to add that not only the FR235 itself, but also Garmin Connect web shows the wrong pacing graph, compared to Strava.

    • Josh

      Sounds like my 7 miler from this morning. Amazing that these two features are so buggy. I will be relying on the rhythm + and my ambit 3 when I start 26.2 training again next week. Once these issues get solved I’ll happily rely on the 235.

    • Adam

      difference comes from the fact that garmin connect (and the watch itself) uses smoothed/corrected pace which is a blend of gps pace and accelerometer’s cadence. While strava uses only gps data. I see same differences on my ambit between watch/movescount and strava. They are not big and tend to be worse only in difficult areas where gps signal is weak (and actually the blended pace – sthg Suunto calls ‘fused’? – is rather better). I assume it will get less visible when watch will autocalibrate better through time

    • Alberto

      I’ve also noticed that my Forerunner 235 shows pace incorrectly, both while running and on garmin connect. Everything fine when I check the data with Sporttracks, perfect. Adam, I can understand that pace is smoothed by the watch and garmin connect, but it’s highly incorrect. For instance, if you run a lap at 5:00min/Km, it will always shows value at about 5:45 or 6:00. I prefer my old Forerunner 305 then…

  150. James

    I can’t seem to get the 235 to sync the Garmin foot pod. I’ve restarted the watch, removed foot pod battery and also install the battery upside down to reset the pod. Still not seeing it, my 220 see’s it fine though. Any ideas?

    • Earl The Patriot

      Turn on the footpod, walk around a few steps to make sure it is sending data (verify with your connected 220), and then when you try to pair the 235 bend down and literally touch the watch to the footpod for 5-10 seconds. The new method of pairing seems to require immediate proximity.

    • Brian Simpson

      I initially had the same problem – do what Earl the Patriot said. You need to hold the watch next to/touching the footpod for it to pair.

    • James

      Thanks for the help, but it’s a no go so far. We bought two 235’s, one works fine with syncing both pods. The problem watch see’s neither. I’ve went back to 3.10 and then back to 3.13. Also, I’ve reset the data. Not sure what to do, I’ll probably wait for the next firmware is released and try again,

    • Marcel

      Did it try it with the 220 turned off? Don’t know if it makes a difference if the pod is already paired to something else, but who knows..

    • James

      Yeah, I was sure to turn off the 220. It syncs right up to one, but not the other. Hopefully it’s not defective.

  151. MR_GB

    Hi Ray or anyone else kind enough to answer.

    I am training for my first marathon (always wanted to do it but i’m plagued with injuries) and was looking to purchase my first watch. I have it down to the two in this review after becoming somewhat of a reclusive cave dwelling celibate shadow of a man while deciding – it is honestly mind-numbing.

    Simply two issues currently plague me.

    – Is the additional cost worth it for the FR235 over the FR230? In simple terms, other than RHR monitoring what does the optical provide me that the strap could not?
    – If I purchase the garmin HR strap would I still be unable to utilise the run dynamics with these watches, and are the running dynamics actually of any tangible use for myself?

    p.s. I really want to get this decision spot-on so I can justify it in the future to my version of ‘the girl’ 🙂
    p.s.s. RE: injuries – I actually tore my lateral meniscus simply putting my shoe on.

    Thanks – Michael

    • Tim Grose

      You would actually need the 630 (of these new devices) to get running dynamics regardless of what HR strap you were using.
      I think the main reason people want to pay more for a 235 over a 230 is that they prefer optical HR to straps or maybe have never bothered with HR training before because have never wanted to use straps.
      That said you can still a pair a HR strap to a 235 if you don’t find the optical HR accurate enough but could still then use the RHR monitoring although TBH I know when I am tired without recording my HR all day.
      I would say if budget is an issue get a 230, if less so get a 235.
      Running dynamics is “interesting” especially if you think your running style is “wrong” and you want to try and change it but anyway all those devices do cadence which is probably the first thing to look at anyway. So it is probably only a nice to have for most runners I would say.

    • Marcel

      The important bit of your post, imho, is that this is your first watch. So I assume you do *not* already have a HR strap. That also means, that you would not need just the FR230 at $250,-, but actually the FR230 bundle, including a strap, at $300,-. That makes the price difference with the FR235 just $30,- (10% of the total price), so I would consider that worth it – simply because now you do not know if you will like or loathe the strap. With the FR235, you’ll have the option to go without. If you would buy the FR230, and find out you really hate the strap, you would be out another $60 or so for a Scosche Rhythm+ or some similar optical addition – twice the price difference between de 230 and 235.

  152. Jeff

    Great review!

    I’m in the market for my first running watch (I’m more of a cyclist, and use an Edge 800 on my bike). With the price of a Fr620 bundle now less than the Fr230 alone, which would you suggest for the casual to intermediate runner?

  153. Daniel

    I would like to know if you can pair any chest strap to the FR235 and use it’s HRM information and override the one taken from the sensor in a 24/7 basis. Could you tell me? It’s very important.

    • Andy

      I believe it can.

    • hollyoak

      Connect to any HR belt yes, but I’m pretty sure that 24×7 is for the built-in HR only, might even be specified in the review 😉

    • Daniel

      I’m hope that anyone can tell me anything soon…
      I need to buy the present!

    • Earl The Patriot

      No, you can not. The 235 does not listen for ANT HR strap data in low power mode. It would be too expensive from a battery standpoint and not worth the development time+support for the twelve people in the world who are willing to wear a chest strap 24×7.

    • Pepe

      Hello, first of all I would like to thank you for your time and help.

      I know that this device is great for running, but I have some doubts abouts how it performs in other areas:

      1. I do strength workouts frecuently, I would like to know if I can connect an ANT+ pulsometer while doing this sessions. But not for 24×7 monitoring. Just the workouts.

      2. What about steps and sleep accuracy?. Do you think they’re pettry accurate?.

      3. I’m also interested in the daily kcal expenditure accuracy. What can you tell about that?.

      Summarizing: Is this device a good activity tracker?.

      My main concern is not about the built-in HR sensor, as you can see (if I can use a belt while trainning I prefer that. More accurate data), but I would like to have one device with this feature, due to I would like to try a 24×7 HR information, but I’m wondering if the difference of this final number (daily kcal consumed) would differ between de 230 and the 235, or if the HR is not used for this matter.

      Thank you very much for your help. It would be wonderful if you can answer my questions.

  154. Eric

    Does anyone know if the FR235 should automatically recalibrate HR zones if the watch measures a max HR above the default 220 minus age setting? I’m 34, so the FR235 automatically pegged my max HRat 186. But during a race this weekend, the watch measured my HR at north of 190 several times, with a peak of 201. The watch still has 186 as my max HR. Should I reset it to 201?

    Thanks everyone!

    • Jake

      I’d say you should change it. Otherwise the zones will be off by a mile and you will be training in the wrong zone. I’d say your total max (ie. where your lying on the ground and not racing) may be even higher than that.

      I’m 36 and my peak so far is 198. I think my actual max is somewhere around 206. The formulas are only a starting point and we have our own individual HR’s.

    • Todd

      Road Runner has the 235s. Received mine in 3 days with VIP discount.

    • Tim Grose

      It seems the 630 has an Auto Detect feature for max HR but the 230 (and presume the 235) does not which probably explains why yours did not move. Assuming you think the 201 was “real” and not a HR spike then yes make it your max HR but look out for something higher still.

  155. Ivan

    I have got the Vivosmart VR for a couple weeks. I believe it is using the same software Garmin Connect as FR230/235. I found that Garmin Connect can still connect to myFitnessPal, but it cannot sync the weight information from it. Probably a way Garmin tries to sell more its own scale. It sucks, as I also got a Withing WS50 🙁

  156. Josh

    For those considering screen protectors, I had one on my 235 but didn’t care for the shininess it was producing so I removed it. Of course, 2 days later I end up with a heck of a ding on the watch face, thankfully on the non screen portion of the watch face. I promptly have ordered a set of the anti glare screen protectors which boxwave offers. The plastic materials of this watch seem to be much less durable than my Ambit 3, but the light weight and crispness of everything make up for it, in my opinion.

  157. Patrick

    Can anybody tell me how the results of an indoor soccer activity look like, can i see the amount of steps or the distance in metres or both. Can you recommend the watch for soccer or could it break? Are there alternatives on the market? Thanks in advance!

    • ss76

      I’m in the same boat. Interested in this and want to use when playing soccer, covered by a wrist band so referees do not ask me to remove, but whether the forerunner 235 would be the right option. Does anyone wear this when playing soccer? What do your results look like?

    • Teran

      I am also curious about this one. I am able to get away with wearing my Vivofit 2 playing soccer most of the time. Sometimes I am asked to take it off. However, the FR 235 is larger. I am thinking about wearing a wristband to cover it up (if I do buy one) or just wear my Vivofit 2.

  158. AnnaRunner

    As usual, excellent review, thanks.

    Anyone used the 235 swimming yet? Was wondering if it measures the HR well enough during a swim.

    • frederik bøving

      I have. You can use your garmin 235 as as “store and forward” unit, so that it measures you pulse during your swim, and then afterwards you load the data. You will then wear 2 units during your swim: the garmin swim for lane/stroke count etc and the garmin 235 for under water pulse measurement. However, I have not been able to successfully combine the two files (they are combined so that a 1 hour workout is shown as 2 hours), but at least it gives you a feel for how pulse intensive your swimming session is.

  159. Andy

    Friend has just bought the 235 and he’s over the moon with it, says the HR is accurate and tracks his runs well. Its become his go-to watch for runs now.

  160. “Note that in this mode you cannot start an activity. It’s only offered as a standalone option, which kinda makes sense. It’s sorta silly to record two activities of the same type to Garmin Connect.”

    Another use-case for re-broadcasting, just in case any Garmin folk are monitoring this thread (hi there!) – assuming that the same capabilities make it into the inevitable 935xt, whenever I do races I always record on my watch, but use a cheap dumb ANT+ head unit as a display that I don’t worry about leaving on my bike. It doesn’t record, just displays, and it would be a shame to lose the HR capability.

  161. Sent this in to Garmin

  162. Bob

    Thanks for another thorough and useful review! Having bought the 225, that decision seems solid. The 235 seems like it was not quite done and the 225 has been a solid watch from day 1.

    • Earl The Patriot

      Having owned both, I would say your statement is accurate yet reversed.

    • Bob

      Sorry, I was only speaking of my experience. Th 235 might be fantastic, I’ll never know, and the 225 has been a great watch for me.

    • David

      The 225 took a “mature” watch, the 220, which had nearly 2 years of bug fixes to the firmware to get so solid (the 620/220 had “issues” at launch in particular GPS accuracy) with a Mio Link stitched on. The Mio Link also had a couple years of mature platform in it. It makes sense that 225 does exactly what it says it does.

      The 235 has a LOT more to offer but again, as typical with Garmin, we get to be beta testers. The hardware is way thinner and lighter than the 225. The screen is bigger and shows a lot more running detail at once. Many metrics only found on the higher end 620 are now on the 235. There is a full suite of activity tracking that now includes 24/7 HR monitoring which the 225 can’t do. Also now it has smart watch functions like call and text notifications and extensibility through Connect IQ apps. Finally I have every reason to believe the hardware of the Garmin Elevate HR is as good as the Mio Link hardware but its clear the software interpretation isn’t as good, the only knock on the 235. I hope that just like the 220 before that as the year goes on the accuracy of the optical HR on the 235 gets better and better and eventually equals or exceeds that of the 225… but it isn’t “bad” today IMHO and certainly worth using to get all the other benefits of the 235.

  163. Olivier


    Thanks for all your testing work – it’s amazing.
    I currently use a smartphone for tracking my runs. For intervalltraining I get a voice notice a few seconds before telling me what’s coming next, something like “200m to end of this section, next section 4 min/km, 600m”, how is this solved in Garmin world, especially the 235?

    Many thanks in advance,

  164. Leo C

    Does anyone have this issue?

    Profile color – Set to Green
    Clock – Check the use profile color

    GO back to the time widget. The color of the clock shows as green.

    When I change using up or down arrow button to see the data from different widget, at the end, when it goes back to the time / clock, it shows as blue color.

    I will have to check/uncheck the option of “Use profile color” under the clock option in order to have the clock showing the profile color.

    it works as it should be on 225 (but then, there is no widget on 225 anyway).

    Can someone try it and see if it is a bug?

  165. How is the GPS enable battery life?
    Is the accuracy of the 235 when using heart rate strap higher? If so it might be a good solution for the “quality training’s” where the HR is constantly change.

  166. John FR630

    DCR – “Note, I’ve seen some photos/videos of folks posting pictures of a backlight of various units during daylight – I’m not sure I totally understand the point there to be honest. Said differently: Try it in the dark, you know, where the light is for”

    The point of the YouTube video comparing the FR310XT and FR630 was to compare the back lights between the respective devices. The fact that the video was taken indoors during the daytime only served to emphasise the level of back light available on the adjustable FR310XT compared to the non-adjustable back light of the FR630.

    Of course it’s not a competition, the point is not which Forerunner has the brightest back light, but whether the display and the back light are bright enough for general use. For some people the back light is okay and for others it is not. Similarly, for some the low contrast display without the back light is good, for others not so.

    Yes, it is personal preference, but I’m sure Garmin want their new Forerunner watches to be suitable for the broadest range of customers, so might have considered the provision of a back light with adjustable brightness to meet the needs of differing users. Not everyone has 20/20 vision and factors that help customers with less than perfect eyesight are higher contrast and adequate light.

  167. Gail Nestor

    I got my 235 a few days ago. I have used it for two runs: a fairly steady-paced 18-miler (for marathon training) and a 9-miler with the last 5 at half marathon pace. On the 18-miler, the HR was accurate for a couple of miles (around 130-135). Then it plummeted to less than 100 until mile 8 where it picked back up again and was seemingly accurate. For the 9-miler, the HR was accurate for the first 4 miles, but as soon as I started going fast, it plummeted to around 98 and never recovered. Both times I wore the watch directly against my skin, fairly tight, slightly above my wrist. On the second run, I stopped after the first fast mile and wiped the optical sensor and my wrist, hoping that would help, but it didn’t. I have the latest firmware, so I’m not sure what else I can do to get better readings. I’m hopeful the problem will resolve on its own, or that I will figure out how to wear it better so it will be more accurate. Please let me know if you or others have any advice for this otherwise totally awesome watch.

    • Earl The Patriot

      I don’t know how you define “fairly tight”, but I would describe my usage as extremely tight. Six holes from the top tight. Strain to get the clasp locked tight. Takes a bit of contorting to take the watch off tight. If I get hit by a car going 60 I might lose my arm but my arm won’t lose my watch tight. Imprint still slightly visible three hours and a hot shower later tight… And it reads my HR with perfection.

    • David

      I don’t go that tight but I sure as heck crank it down during runs so it WILL NOT MOVE. I also don’t want it to have an “lift” where it can pull away from my skin and let light under the back. I haven’t had issues with the optical HR other than one run where it seemed to track my running cadence instead of my HR for about 8-10 minutes which I guess Ray had happen too. The other runs have been fine in 40-65 degree weather. I wear it looser at other times but never so it slides up and down my arm.

  168. Mike S.

    Hi Ray,

    Does the 230/235 do as good a job of reporting cadence and other metrics as a footpod? Do you still need a footpod for indoor running?

    Thank you.

  169. Leo C

    after changed the watch from 35% to 100% for 2hours (and I let the charger on for another 30-60 mins), the phone shows 100% battery level. But when I use some other battery app, it shows 98% (including some watch face).

    How long should I have the watch plugged in the charger after it shows 100% charged?

    the other battery apps I used are battery meter and Battery Gauge.

    The watch face I used is Line

  170. David Carey

    Ray – thanks for another awesome review. Question about the optical hrm. Does it handle HRV/RR correctly? I love my Scosche but I miss useful calorie counts and TE measurements on Garmin Connect and TrainingPeaks. I see there are some valid-looking values in the pictures above – wondering how they did this, and will it transfer to TP correctly?

    Thanks very much

  171. Mark I.

    As a follow up to initial impressions of the 235 posted several days ago.

    1) The Battery Gauge widget bogged down the User Interface (slow response to arrow buttons to change screens). When I uninstalled Battery Gauge, better performance of screen changes returned.
    2) I’ve installed beta firmware 3.13 to the 235.
    3) Did a cross train cardio this morning, and selected the user activity ‘Other’ for the first time since acquiring the watch. HRM performance was terrible, completely disregarding accurate measurement from minute 5 to minute 16 (was just mushing around between 80 and 100).
    4) Did my first actual run (short). One mile constant pace, one mile alternating between walks and and 75% of maximum pace. One mile alternating between walk and jog pace. HRM seemed to keep up with the fluctuating intensity levels. This was after starting the run activity a second time. The first time it started and did not dislodge from reading 82 when the warmup walk should have been producing a reading of around 100. So I went into Menu/Settings/System/Data Recording, and changed the selection from ‘Smart’ to ‘Every Second.’ I would like a system setting that allows me to choose ‘Every Second’ to be my choice during Activities, and ‘Smart’ to be my choice outside of Activities. I don’t (yet) trust the Smartness of the Data Recording during Activities. I wonder if some of the HRM problems people have described are related to Smart being not so much, particularly when an activity lulls the 235 into thinking a state that has been unchanged (constant pace jog) will remain unchanged. Why rely on an accelerometer to trigger a measurement when you can just take more data points? Sure, maybe the battery drains a little quicker, but if you gain accuracy, isn’t that the right tradeoff?
    5) Beta 3.13 does address one of my earlier comments, that the Menu button shouldn’t be buried so deep. Now it is immediately selectable after pushing the activity button.
    6) Today’s run was my first use of the GPS feature and at first glance it appears to have performed well.
    7) Battery life is below advertised. Haven’t used the 235 enough to give a more detailed assessment.

    A general comment. There have been previous posts about how HR and cadence are somehow collectively used to make certain calculations. As a user, I would like the option to disregard cadence in the calculation of calories, or as some kind of computational validation of heart rate. Garmin Connect doesn’t know everything about me, but it knows enough (height, weight, age, gender) to – when paired with HR over the course of a set timeframe – make a decent assessment of calorie burn. I don’t trust an activity tracker’s attempt at measuring and utilizing cadence, when neither the 235 nor Garmin Connect know my inseam, or the thickness of my shoe soles, or the infinite little variations in stride that occur over the course of a run.

  172. Zete

    Is it normal for companies to release new products with buggy beta software?

    I’m without a hr monitor now, and I have set my eyes on fr235, but all those bugs are really putting me off. The inacurate hr on interval recovery and inferior battery life are unacceptable for me as this is quite a lot of money. will they fix it? can they? to what extent? I’m not a techno gadget freak that will swap out for a newer model as soon as it comes out. I want a solid watch I can use for years and years. =/

    • George

      Is it normal? Sadly it seems to be the new norm, at least for Garmin. Read the comments/posts shortly following any of their running/multisport watches in recent years. While many owners are perfectly happy, there seem to always be a substantial number of owners experiencing issues. If you’re looking for a solid platform and don’t want to take a chance on dealing with bugs, best to wait a couple months after general availability IMHO.

    • Leo c

      That is what I did when I purchased the 225. I waited about a month after it was released to a public and then the one I bought did not have any issue on the softwares other experienced.

      However, for 235, I got it about the same rims they released to the public / retial stores because I returned my 225 and I had running for few weeks without a gps watch and I needed one.

      I will see if the upcoming update of the software would fix the issue I am facing or not. Or if it is a hardware problem, then I will return to REI and get a new one.

    • David

      The optical HR is not as good as my Mio Link, but it isn’t bad and it is well worth it to me to be in a single device that I have to charge instead of having chest straps or separate wrist bands to have to take and manage. I get that Garmin wanted to go to their own optical platform and I’m not surprised at all it will take sometime to fine tune the software now that it is being used by millions.

      As for battery life that scares me. Again I don’t want to be alarmist but I am getting 5+ days with 1.5 hrs of GPS/GLOSNASS use, bluetooth notifications and sync and 24/7 optical monitoring and ONLY LOSING 60% or so battery power. I would certainly say I would get 8 days before it died (I have so far always charged well before it hit 0%) and I would get the 10-11 days if I didn’t use it for workouts. In other words… mine meets the suggested standards and is remotely close to running out of power in 2.5 day’s like Ray’s is even accounting for the fact Ray’s workouts are obviously longer than mine. I have doubts this is really a software fix but rather a real deal hardware issue showing up on many, many production units.

    • Leo C

      I am going to have few runs this week after a full charge (100%) of the watch and see how it can hold up.

  173. David

    After about 5 solid runs with the HR I ran for the treadmill and ran into an issue for the first time. When my heart rate raised into the low 150’s it match my waddling cadence which was in the low 150’s and because of the metronome like cadence you have on a ‘mill it seems the optical HR locked in on MY CADENCE as if it was HR. Had no idea it could do this if I hadn’t read Ray’s comments about how it did the same when on occasion he ran on a steep downhill. The optical HR line suddenly becomes fairly smooth for about 10 minutes just sitting in the low 150’s when suddenly it gets with the program and instantly jumps to the mid 160’s and then appears accurate (and the typical bit jaggy) for the rest of the program. It certainly does appear if you have a very steady cadence near your current heart rate the Garmin Elevate technology at this point may lock to your cadence instead of your real HR, something I didn’t see with my Mio Link. That said I expect this is all software so IF Garmin invests continuing effort on refining it we should see improvements overtime with firmware revisions… I hope. I’m a bit disappointed because of all my runs this should have been the “easiest” for the watch as it was a 72 degree room, a tight band, and a totally steady state run.

    • David

      I made some typos so I just want to be clear… my only issue was the optical HR was on my one and only indoor treadmill run. Runs in 40-65 degree outdoor weather went well.

      My battery life is very, very good… or at least meets very closely the Garmin published numbers. It isn’t even close to the issues Ray and others are posting with. That’s actually concerning that we are talking about an actual physical variance issue between units.

      PS: Ray any chance we can get an “edit” button for our posts?

    • Brenton Barnard

      Hi David,
      Your issue with the watch seeming to jump on cadence I have experienced before. I’ve only had my 235 for a few days and only done one gym session and 2 x 11km runs and in that time I can say the watch has been brilliant other that I was a bit suspect of some HR in the gym on the rower. The cadence issue is not 235 specific, I’ve had that happen on my 225 and also my 920xt, the only fix I found was to do a slight warm up first to get the HR up a little before starting the watch.

    • Gunnar

      I had the same thing happen on a treadmill run with HRM.

  174. David

    Ray… I know the 235 won’t use a footpad to show instant pace outdoors but will it calibrate the footpod if I wear it on outdoor runs? I wasn’t too pleased with pace stability on the treadmill (although i will admit I think it got overall average pace over larger periods of time decently) so I’m thinking of breaking out my old Garmin footpod. Does that get calibrated over outdoors runs like the internal watch accelerometer? Thanks.

    • Tim Grose

      Yes there is a auto calibration feature for the foot pod from outdoor runs. If however you are going to use on the treadmill, it will probably be more accurate just to see how far the treadmill reads if say you run about half mile or 800m according to the device on the default calibration then compute as treadmill distance / footpod distance * 100


    hi mate
    it a very helpful report. I would like to ask if you recommend the 235 for activities like tennis & skiing. I like the alerts option & the HR sensor but i mostly bike,play tennis & ski. Is that the correct choice for me?

    • Tim Grose

      Kind of depends what you are hoping for it do? If it is timing an activity and getting a HR profile then it seems that could work reasonably well.

  176. Ryan

    I’m trying to figure out the differences between the data that you can track between the 235 and 630. The following response from Garmin indicates that the same running dynamics can be tracked with the 235 when using the HRM as you can with the 630. Are there other items that I am missing that you can track in the 630 but not 235?

    Running dynamics are capable on devices when used in conjunction with a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) that is capable of recording Running Dynamics.
    There are three running metrics available when using an HRM-Run or HRM-Tri that are collectively called Running Dynamics.
    • Cadence
    • Vertical Oscillation
    • Ground Contact Time
    These metrics are computed by the HRM-Run and HRM-Tri accessory and provide feedback about your running form.
    Both the Forerunner 630 and Forerunner 235 are capable of providing these metrics when used with a Running Dynamics capable HRM.

    • Carl Andersson

      DC made it quite clear in his review that the 235 wasn’t capable of using running dynamic metrics, even if you used a HRM strap that could provide the data.
      He also made it quite clear that Garmin are hopeless at providing accurate information on their website.

    • Yeah, wherever that response is from – it’s wrong (I tried the quoted text in Google, and couldn’t find it, so I assume it’s a support person proving that info). Either way, it’s inaccurate.

    • Chris

      REI is still wrong as well… ha

      Love having all your running data? The Forerunner 235 GPS Heart Rate Monitor Watch measures stride length, contact time and vertical ratio so you can improve your form and run more efficiently.

  177. Tim

    Thanks for your detailed review! I ordered the FR 235 (black friday deal – 25% off).

    Is anyone of you concerned about information privacy and unwilling to install a smartphone app (e.g. Garmin Connect for Android) that requires nearly every permission the phone can give? What do you think about uploading such sensitive information like your 24/7 activity tracking into the cloud?

    Does anyone know a comfortable way to push data from FR 230/235 into a private Runalyze server?
    Can anyone recommend an Android app requiring less/no permissions?

    • JMG

      Just curious where you got the 235 for 25% off?

    • Tim Grose

      Your activity files are on the watch so if your offline software tool of choice can read FIT files then you will good.
      Personally I value being able to access my data when and where I want over privacy concerns and anyway there are privacy settings if you want to make your activities private on Garmin Connect. Not sure what somebody could maliciously do with data on my heart rate anyway unless perhaps I had assured somebody it was normal for medial insurance or something and the traces indicated otherwise. But then I would be actually fraudently anyway.

  178. Gabe

    Ray i had a very different result with the 235.

    Similar to your advisory that the hr tracking is slow – i had slow and incorrect data on my 1st run today.

    I highly advise people to stay away from this watch.

    the heart rate was very inaccurate. I was in zone 4 and it was still thinking i was in zone 1.

    I’ll do another test run tomorrow with the HRM run – but so far it’s a definite DO NOT BUY.

    • Long Run Nick

      Yikes! I guess I am lucky. Have run 9 times, 73 miles. A few spikes, but no major issues. I really like the 235. GPS spot on. Lap pace, BT, smart watch stuff, so far as good as my Vivoactive and 920XT. No complaints. Love no HR strap. Got bored with the 24/7 HR monitoring. Battery could be a little better- but Imfound running 2 hours ate about 20% of the battery. Rest day BT on all the time /notifications/ steps,etc.about 8-10% battery drain. Have several IQ apps on it.
      This from a guy who has run over 83,000 miles.

    • I would try adjusting the watch a bit and also just giving it a second run.

  179. Brenton Barnard

    ***** VIRTUAL PACER IS HERE ********

    Yes we know Garmin mislead us in the specifics of the watch and many of us were bitterly disappointing of the lacking feature. The good news is there are IQ apps available and the link below is one I tried out last night, it is very similar to the feature found on the 920xt and a feature I love to use in events. The 235 with this app now makes it my favourite go to watch. Here’s the link.

    link to apps.garmin.com