Old but gold. The Garmin Forerunner 235 still manages to stand out as top of the range watch in the under $200 category. Even against the newer watchers for runners and cyclists, this still competes well.
- Large and clear screen
- Looks smart and is light
- Excellent value for money
- Access to Strava
- Sleep tracking isn’t the most reliable
- Syncing isn’t always the best
In 2020 we expect our running watches to provide more than just distance and time. We want a watch that can train us to become better runners.
Are you wanting to increase your 5k pace? Or increase your distance from 10k up to a half marathon?
Watches these days have access to the latest range of apps that can coach us to become better runners. From interval training, pace management and heart rate monitoring. All these can help you plan your training sessions so you can get the most out of them.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 was released with some excellent tech that with some updates allows it to compete today. Especially at it’s relatively low cost!
Originally priced at $330 and now at $165 on Amazon, this watch is a bargain for what you get. Similarly priced to the Fitbit Charge 4, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is great value for money. With it’s large screen and access to Strava, you really can’t do better for that price.
If you see it for cheaper than $165 then treat yourself straight away. You’ll be disappointed if you miss out!
- Clear large color screen
- Variety of colors (including Black/Grey, Frost Blue, Black/Red)
- Comfortable straps for daily use and intense exercise
- Heart rate sensor can be uncomfortable if you like having the watch tight around your wrist
Garmin have kept with their traditional design for this watch and it looks good. The black/red is my favorite one, unfortunately this one can be more expensive to buy! Whichever color you pick, you’ll be happy with the way it looks on you.
Despite its decent size, the 235 is also a light watch. Weighing in at 42g, you’ll sometimes forget it’s there!
The Garmin Forerunner 235 has a classic round face with a diameter of 1.23 inches. The screen is crisp and easy to read. The size of the screen allows you to have up four different stats showing up at once that you can read without squinting!
Unlike its newer counterparts that have touchscreens, here you have five side buttons for working the watch. Garmin’s well-designed menus make it easy to navigate. On the other hand, from my experience, having buttons while trying to navigate your watch is far easier than touch screen!
Running – Tracking and Metrics
- GPS is quick and accurate
- Four different sports modes
- Customizable displays
The Garmin Forerunner 235 brings you four different modes: Run, Indoor Run, Cycle and Other. Garmin have cleverly designed it so you have two data screens that you can customize, making displays that suit you best!
Your outdoor runs are tacked by GPS and GLONASS, giving you reliable speed, pace and distance metrics. On our outdoor runs we found our 5k and 10k distances were within 10-20m of what Garmin was tracking, so pretty accurate! This is because the GPS refreshes very frequently, twice as often as the standard phone.
Indoor runs use an accelerometer to measure your pace. While it’s okay for measuring distance, it’s speed metrics usually disagreed with the treadmill.
Helping with training and races the watch gives some other useful metrics such as heart rate, heart rate zone and cadence (how many strides per minute). You can set your watch to vibrate or make a noise to help you hit a target pace or heart rate. Perfect for helping you hit the right pace in a race you want to smash!
You can transfer your date from the phone (which stores 200 hours of activity) onto your phone, letting you track your progress over a long period of time. It’s great being able to see how far you progressed over a year!
- Tracks step count and distance
- Sets goals based on activity levels
Like other sports watches the Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks your daily activity. Letting you know if you’re moving enough on days where you aren’t committing to the gym or a run.
The step counter also includes when you go for runs. I found having a watch much better than a phone when tracking my steps for a charity 10k steps a day challenge.
If you enjoy some competition there are even leaderboards you can join!
- Track heart rate during the day
- Estimate VO2 Max scores
The Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks your heart rate with a sensor on the back of the watch face.
During the day the watch tracks your resting heart rate and provides excellent tracking of this data. As it’s a very useful marker of your heart health. You can get a live reading of your HR at the push of a button!
During exercise the heart rate monitor can track your heart rate, giving you averages and maxes. Very useful data when you’re trying to do certain types of training!
The watch does provide a VO2 Max reading. This basically says how much oxygen your body can use. This higher the score, the fitter you are.
Unfortunately smart watches do not often give the most reliable readings. Some tests have shown very healthy people getting results that you’d expect from an older sedentary individual.
- Provides Training Effort results after exercise
- Recovery advisor
- Unreliable Race Predictor
So this is where the Garmin Forerunner 235 goes from statistician to coach.
After a run, the watch will give you a Training Effort score, from 0-5. The result is based on your heart rate and time. The idea is that a higher score should have bigger effect on your fitness. While you shouldn’t fully rely on this score, it’s a nice little way of making sure you didn’t undertrain!
One of the biggest causes of injury is from people not giving themselves time to recover. This watch gives you a recommendation on how long you should rest until you train again!
The Garmin Forerunner 235 has a neat feature where it gives you a Race Predictor. So it will say how fast it thinks you can run a 10k, marathon etc.
As it uses your training data it can sometimes throw out unusual times. Giving you predictions that are way of the pace. While a fun metric, it’s worth noting it may be unreliable – so don’t be devastated if you don’t run that 15 minute 5k!
The Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks your sleep – giving you a result on the quality and time you have been asleep.
The 235 tries to track the time spent in certain sleep levels during the night, from deep, light and awake.
The tracking on the 235 doesn’t seem to be quite as reliable as some of it’s competitors. It has a tendency to say you’ve been asleep for much longer than you have, and can have inconsistent readings on how deep your sleep is.
While it’s not the best, it is a good start for beginning to track your sleep. Which is vitally important to our physical and mental health!
- 9 Days in watch mode
- 11 hours in GPS mode
So the fun stuff. Battery life.
With a few training sessions and use during the day, the watch will likely last you almost the full week before it needs a recharge.
As a Garmin you need a special charging cable for the watch, which can be a pain when going out of town. Just one extra cable to lose!
Charging time is approximately two hours for a full charge. Which is a decent enough time.
- Excellent running metrics
- Some good coaching tools
- Allows music control
- Can see full text messages from your phone
- Great price!
With a strong range of running metrics, great day to day usability and powerful battery, this watch ticks many of the boxes you would have.
If you’re a serious athlete and want better coaching and metrics, then you may need to spend a bit more cash on getting a better model like the Garmin Forerunner 645.
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