Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 235

Seeing as REI is having a big sale right now ($80 off retail price!), and since I’ve had the Garmin Forerunner 235 for over 2 months, I decided now might be a good time to write up my thoughts on the watch.

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I should point out that my review is from the perspective of someone who used the Garmin 210 for 4 years, so most of my pros and cons will be based on my experience with the 210. For a super in-depth review, I highly recommend heading over to DC Rainmaker’s post.

First impressions: it’s quite big, but not as overwhelming as I expected. The strap is relatively comfortable. Overall, it’s fairly lightweight. Most of the buttons are the same as the 210, so that was easy.

Pros:

  • SO MUCH EASIER to charge and sync. Garmin has tremendously improved the clip/USB cable so there’s no need to fiddle around.
  • Wireless syncing with the Garmin Connect app. I think this feature came out with the FR 220, but to a 210 user like me, this was a huge upgrade. And Garmin Connect automatically syncs with Strava, making my life easier. (It’s why I switched from Dailymile to Strava.)
  • Significantly faster at finding GPS satellite. What used to take me about 30 seconds (sometimes longer) on my usual routes now takes me ~5 seconds. This alone is worth the upgrade, IMHO.
  • Built-in heart rate monitor (HRM). While I really liked the Mio Link, I didn’t like wearing 2 things on my wrist. More on HRM accuracy below.
  • Added scroll button = less wasted time. It used to be that the scroll button only went in one direction, meaning that if I wanted to go to the previous display or option, I’d have to scroll through the whole menu again. Now, with both up and down buttons, I can scroll faster.
  • Built-in Bluetooth for smart phone alerts. I get a vibration alert every time I get a text, phone call, or any other notifications I’ve got set up on my phone. It’s been quite nice to turn the ringer off my phone.
  • Custom workouts through Garmin Connect. I can now set up more complicated workouts (ladders, for instance) on Garmin Connect and send them to my watch. I can also set the intervals in meters without changing the settings on my watch.
  • Fitness tracker. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy a Fitbit, the fact that I can easily track resting heart rate, number of steps, and sleep hours has been fun.
  • Customizable displays. The workout displays can show up to 4 fields at a time and there are 4 or 5 of them. You can also get different watch faces through the Garmin app store.
  • Multiple modes: run, indoor run, cycling, or other.
  • Long battery life. I charge it every 5 days or so.

Cons:

  • Not the most accurate HRM. I can deal with a HRM that’s consistently under or over reporting, but so far I’ve encountered both. I’d say that it works about 85-90% of the time, which kinda sucks if you wanted to do HR training using this watch. In my experience, the resting HR is wildly inaccurate, but it’s probably because I loosen it up before I go to bed and it’s not making a proper contact.
  • Inaccurate sleep tracker. Good thing I didn’t buy the FR 235 as an activity tracker, because the sleep tracking sucks. At first, it was just a little off, but recently I’ve noticed that it still thinks I’m sleeping even though it senses activity (denoted by pink spikes) – for a whole 15-30 minutes! If I care about tracking sleep, then I usually go into the app and edit the times.
  • Beeping during intervals. I have 2 issues with this. First, with the 210, my watch would only beep to notify me of upcoming run/rest intervals. With the 235, it beeps during those times AND also during laps (mine is set to 1 mile), so a few times I got really confused about which interval I was on. Not a huge deal, but still kinda strange. Second, I’ve noticed inconsistent intervals between beeps. Like instead of beeping once per second, I’d hear a lag, and then it tries to catch up by beeping twice in a row really quickly. Again, not a big deal, but it can be unnerving, and makes me wonder about accuracy.
  • Inconsistencies with indoor run mode. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s awesome that this watch can even keep track of treadmill runs. The first time, it was spot on and in full agreement with the treadmill display. The second time, it was about a quarter mile off. I don’t know if that was the fault of the watch or the treadmill.
  • Too many buttons to push in order to silence/disable Bluetooth/turn off alerts. Another minor quip, but I’ve basically resorted to turning my phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode to stop the alerts from coming through. Even when you turn the watch to “Do Not Disturb”, it still beeps! I’ve also had to lock my watch before going into meetings to prevent accidentally pushing the “Run” button. If you do that, then it will beep every 10 seconds before going into power save mode. Very annoying!

In summary, I really like the Garmin FR 235. It’s a big step up from the FR 210. If you’re looking for a great running watch with some fun (but maybe not totally accurate) bells and whistles, I highly recommend it. Let me know if you have any questions!

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About

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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3 comments on “Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 235
  1. Hillary says:

    This is perfectly timed! I had read about the HR issues on DC Rainmaker, but my old 220 is getting more and more finicky w/ recharging and linking up. He (and others) seemed to think that a lot of the bugs could be remedied with some software pushes, so hopefully the tech in the watch continues to improve. I had been on the fence about getting this or the 230 (no HR), but with the sale, it feels like I might as well get the 235 and stop wasting space in my brain (tech-based decision paralysis is *real*). Thanks!!

    • Jen says:

      Yay! I’d say the huge REI sale makes this decision a no brainer. There have been a lot of updates even in the last 2 months – so I hope some of the “quirks” get fixed eventually. Hope you enjoy your new watch!

  2. […] new piece of gear: Garmin Forerunner 235. It finds GPS much faster than my previous Garmin, plus it’s got a heart rate monitor. I like […]

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