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Garmin Forerunner 15 Review – Garmin Forerunner 15 Heart Rate Monitor Review

Garmin is not present in the world of GPS watches, with products adapted to all budgets and in most cases meeting the expectations of athletes of all levels. With the ForeRunner 15, Garmin offers a perfectly successful evolution of the Forerunner 10, its entry-level GPS watch. With the FR15, Garmin indeed offers a watch that meets, even more, the expectations of today’s athletes, by taking over the base of the FR10 and incorporating features of activity tracking. In the idea, the FR15 is a mix between the FR10 and the Garmin Vivofit bracelet.

The addition of activity tracking is obviously not the only evolution proposed by the Forerunner 15, including improvements in autonomy or the ability to easily connect a heart rate monitor to the watch. We tested all this for a few days to make you a complete return and imaged, and we let you discover all the details in the rest of our article.

The Garmin ForeRunner 15 is available in its basic version, more than the Forerunner 10.

Unboxing and first impressions

Before tackling the unpacking of our FR15, some small details about the different variants of the watch available. Garmin offers several colors and sizes, as well as a version with and without a heart monitor. The latter, incorporating a heart rate monitor belt, is named Forerunner 15 HRM is proposed more than for the classic version.

The colors of the watch not only have an aesthetic function but also differentiate the different FR15s into two different sizes. In order not to be deceived in your choice, here is a small summary of the colors and the corresponding sizes:

  • Blue and Black: Large
  • Red and Black: Large
  • Violet and White: Small
  • Green and Black: Small
  • Turquoise and White: Small

In the idea, the models “Small” are rather intended for women, and the models “Large,” but it is not an exact science, and for my part, having relatively thin wrists, I will use for this test the green and black version. The differences between these two sizes are mainly on the screen, a smaller strand on “Small” models, as well as on the size of the gimbal itself. The thickness remains the same in both sizes. Also note that the smaller version of the watch is a little lighter, with a weight of about 36g against about 43g for the larger version.

So much for these small important details before starting to unpack the FR15, now, we attack.

The Garmin watch is offered in a small rectangular box, revealing on its front face the cardan FR15. The box of the FR15 HRM is identical, simply adding the belt inside it. For this test, I already have the latest generation of Garmin SS3 heart rate monitor belt so that I will use it instead of the normal Forerunner 15 HRM.

Inside the box is found, in addition to the watch, a USB cable to recharge it (and synchronize), as well as many manuals. One to start quickly, and another more detailed. Each textbook is available in many different languages, including French, of course.

At the unpacking, the Garmin FR15 seems to offer rather strong finishes, and its really low weight should allow it to be forgotten easily, it’s still important because incorporating a step counter, the idea is to wear it permanently.

Design and look

With these many colors, everyone should be able to find an FR15 to his taste. This black and green version is probably soberer than other colors, and I suspect to be thought for men with fine wrists like me, and not wishing to wear a pink or turquoise watch.

The FR15 is almost entirely black, with a wide green border around the dial, and a reminder of the same color on the “Running” button. In total, four buttons are present on the watch, to activate different features, but also to navigate very simply in the different pages of the dial.

  • The Running button on the top right allows you to activate the GPS mode of the watch and start recording a running session (or cycling).
  • The button at the bottom right is used to navigate the menus to access for example the history of your races, your statistics or the parameters of the watch.
  • The button at the top left makes it possible to turn on the screen, which the night runners will appreciate. A long press on the latter turns off the watch.
  • The last button, at the bottom left, serves as a “Back” key when you navigate through the pages of the watch, but above all allows you to display your various statistics concerning activity tracking, by displaying your number of steps, your objective or the date of the day.

For this version in small size, the dimensions of the dial are 4 x 5.2 x 1.6 cm (against 4.6 x 5.7 x 1.6 cm for the large version). The display offers an identical resolution of 55 x 32 px, but differs in size, with 2.1 x 2cm for the small, and 2.5 x 2.4cm for the large.

Finally, the bracelet of the watch seems solid and comfortable, especially with a kind of double clasp that should make sure you never drop your FR15 once on the wrist; an advantage over some activity sensor wristbands that may tend to fall by donning clothes for example.

Overall, if the FR15 is not an example of beauty, it offers a simple and effective design, which does not scream “I am a marathoner’s watch! “. Apparently, it’s not as discreet as a Jawbone Up24, but hey, we can not have everything.

Autonomy

If you are already a Forerunner 10 user, you may have noticed that the battery was one of the weak points of this watch. With the FR15, Garmin offers up to 8 hours of battery life in GPS mode, almost double the previous version. A welcome improvement for this model, the former was sometimes not enough to finish a marathon for example.

By disabling the GPS mode, the range is much greater, with the possibility to use it for more than a month without requiring the least recharge (using the features watch/activity sensor).

The battery level is indicated on the side of the watch, with a small symbol indicating the remaining battery life. For regular use, with 4 hours of GPS training per week, the watch should keep you ten days without problems.

SS3 heart rate monitor

Before I start using the Garmin Forerunner 15, I just want to quickly introduce the SS3 heart rate monitor belt that I will use the watch to track my BPM. As mentioned above, if you do not already have a heart rate monitor, you can opt for the FR15 HRM version that offers one (this is the basic model, the HRM1).

The SS3 is, in fact, the evolution of the belt proposed by default by Garmin, and it was for me the opportunity to present this one.

The SS3 Ant + differs from the old belt by an improved comfort, thanks to a soft fabric strap easily adaptable to your morphology. The heart rate monitor fits into it, so it’s easy to wash the belt after your workout, taking care to remove the monitor beforehand.

One of the interesting features is the ability to pair the module with your watch, allowing you to retrieve only your information, even in special places frequented where interference could take place before (start line/arrival for example).

Running with the FR15

We are finally ready to run for the first time with the Garmin Forerunner 15. To start training, just press the colored button of the watch, in this case, the green button on our model, designated by a little guy Running.

By pressing the button, the FR15 instantly starts searching for GPS signals, depending on your placement, it can take a few seconds to just over a minute. In parallel, the watch will also connect to your heart monitor and your foot pod if you use one. Three symbols on the watch show the connection status of the different devices, the latter becoming frozen once the connection is established.

Once your position is found, and your monitor is connected (if you use one, which we can only advise you), just press the “Run” button again to start your recording.

During the effort, it is possible to navigate on different pages to display your information on the screen. You can check the following indicators at any time:

  • Time / Distance
  • Time / Allure
  • Time / Calories
  • Pace / Distance
  • Allure / Calories
  • Distance / Calories

You can configure your choices for the first and second page of the dial directly from the watch by going to “Race Options” and then “Data Fields.” If you have an HRM, a third page showing your heart rate and your zone will also be displayed. Note that it is also possible to choose to display your average speed rather than your current speed if you wish.

During the race, navigation on the different pages is effortless; the buttons require sufficient pressure not to engage on your own if you rub other people or trees.

The reading during the effort is clear, with data large enough to see without having to approach the watch in front of the eyes. Also, the screen can be backlit if you run at night.

Once your training is finished, just press the “Run” button again to finish the data recording. There, a screen will suggest you record your session, to continue to run, or to ignore this session and thus not to keep it in memory.

Speaking of memory, the watch offers a history of the latest training, with the seven most recent races. Another menu also allows you to consult its different records in a few clicks.

Race options

In addition to recording your course, calculating your speed and many other statistics, additional options are built into the Garmin Forerunner 15 to improve your training.

The first of these options is the “Run / Walk” function, which makes it possible to easily define walking and running times, as the name suggests. This is a logic adopted by many training programs, which ask you, for example, to run at a precise pace for 15 minutes, then walk 2 minutes. Once the times set on the FR15, an alert will be triggered whenever it is time to walk or run.

The second option is called “Virtual Pacer,” allows defining a pace of race before you start your training. Once your pace is set, a new screen during your running session will appear on the FR15, indicating whether you are above or below your target pace.

The third option, “Heart Rate Alert,” allows as the name suggests to set a heart rate with respect during your training. You can choose a frequency zone, or define one yourself by specifying the minimum and maximum BPM. In practice, alarms are triggered when you leave your frequency zone.

The fourth option, “Circuits,” allows defining how to calculate the segments of your course. By default, the FR15 is in “Auto-Lap” mode of 1km, which means that a new lap is recorded every km. It is possible to manage the towers manually by choosing the “Touch Lap” option, to segment your route as you wish by simply pressing the corresponding button.

The last running option is Auto-Pause, which automatically pauses the watch when you are stopped. A particularly practical option if you have a habit of running in the city and you often find yourself stopping at a pedestrian crossing for example.

Activity monitoring

As we explained at the beginning of this test, the Garmin FR15 is not only a GPS watch but also allows you to follow your daily activity, like an activity tracker bracelet. (Do not hesitate to consult our corresponding category to know more about these products by clicking here.)

The activity sensor of the FR15 is based on that of Garmin Vivofit, a product more than correct in the middle. By integrating this sensor with its watch, Garmin offers a versatile product, which you will not wear only for sports, but also in everyday life.

By default, the FR15 displays the current time, and below your number of steps of the day, accompanied by a progress bar. By pressing the button at the bottom left of the watch, you can scroll through the information and display the following:

  • A number of steps remaining to reach the goal: it is automatically generated by Garmin based on your previous results.
  • Distance traveled: taking into account the distances achieved if you used the watch to run today.
  • Calories spent: note that the calories you burn naturally are included.

As often with activity sensors, the device motivates you to move, displaying a notification “Move! On the screen, if you have not been active enough during the last hour (at least 200 steps). It is apparently possible to disable this notification from the options of the watch; not everyone cannot necessarily achieve 200 steps at any time of the day.

All this information about your day can, of course, be found on your Garmin Connect account, on which we will return just a little further down.

In practice, the FR15 does a good job of tracking your steps and distances, even if it is less discreet than most activity sensors in the current market. Indeed, not everyone will necessarily be able to keep a sports wrist watch in the office; the latter is not the most suitable for suit and tie! If for you the question of style is not a problem, then the FR15 allows you to save the purchase of a second device for monitoring your daily activity. For others, we’ll still image using the FR15 only for the sport, and a more discreet bracelet like the Jawbone Up24 or even a sensor clinging everywhere like a Fitbit One.

Garmin Express

Once your race is over, one of the steps necessary to fully utilize the potential of Garmin is to download and install the Garmin Express software. Honestly, I find it a pity that no message is automatically displayed when the watch is first plugged into the Garmin Express download page.

The installation is very simple, and the tool is available for both PCs and Macs. Once Garmin Express is installed on your computer, simply plug in your watch for the software to recognize it. Once the FR15 is detected, simply click on the button “Add the device.”

Garmin Express allows you to sync your data between Garmin Connect and your watch, but also to update your watch, and knowing that Garmin has a habit of continually improving their products, it’s a good thing to be able to update it if easily.

When you first open Garmin Express, the software will ask you if you already have a Garmin Connect account. Garmin Connect is the platform of the manufacturer to find all the data of your various devices of the brand, including of course the FR15.

If you already have an account, you can simply enter your credentials. Otherwise, it will be necessary to create one. Everything is very intuitive and is done in minutes.

Garmin Connect

  • As explained just above, all the data recorded by your watch can be found in details on your Garmin Connect account. The site is entirely free and provides a real monitoring of your daily activities and sports.
  • Garmin Connect comes in the form of several “tiles” that can be arranged as it sees fit. It is possible to create several pages each with many tiles, by default two pages are proposed, one for sports activities, and one for fitness and health.
  • By clicking on each tile, you can access more details about the information concerned. For example, the page “Number of steps” gives you a detailed view of your activity throughout your day by indicating in 15 minutes the number of steps completed and your periods of inactivity (Garmin means inactivity a period one hour when you have not moved from your desk for example).
  • On this same page, other tabs allow to have a detail in your sleep, your calories consumed / burns and your sports activities. Finally, it is possible to display the trends of each of these data over defined periods (7 days, one month, six months, 12 months) and observe in a flash your evolution over time.
  • By clicking on each tile, you can access more details about the information concerned. For example, the page “Number of steps” gives you a detailed view of your activity throughout your day by indicating in 15 minutes the number of steps completed and your periods of inactivity (Garmin means inactivity a period one hour when you have not moved from your desk for example).
  • On this same page, other tabs allow to have a detail in your sleep, your calories consumed / burns and your sports activities. Finally, it is possible to display the trends of each of these data over defined periods (7 days, one month, six months, 12 months) and observe in a flash your evolution over time.
  • As you can see in the picture above, it is also possible to get reports on your running and cycling sessions, with graphs corresponding to your number of activities, your average pace, your calories and many others.
  • It is possible to add contacts to your account to create a kind of small social network of the sport, but the addition of friends is not effective, and we would have imagined a possibility to import contacts from Facebook or Twitter for example directly. If you know the usernames of your friends, however, you can add them and then view the activities they have done, with the possibility of ranking between you and your friends for example.

Running/cycling report

Once you have completed your training and sent to the Garmin Connect platform, you can get many details about them.

By opening the page of a specific session, you will find in the top left the name of the training (which can be modified), as well as the type of exercise. Below, there is a map showing your complete route if the GPS was active. It is possible to select the mapping tool (Google, Bing or OpenStreetMap) and to zoom in / out at will. In the same place, we also find meteorological information, and as you can see, it starts to look good in Marseille!

Next to the map is a summary of the session, including distance traveled, time, pace and calories burned. It is also possible to add a note to your training.

A little lower on this page, you can get graphs and curves of your various statistics, including your pace and your heart rate throughout the course. By clicking on each chart, you can enlarge them.

You can also get a detail of each of your turns, with each time your time. On each segment, you can find a lot of information:

  • Time
  • Cumulative time
  • Distance
  • Gain and altitude loss
  • Average pace and better pace
  • Average and maximum heart rate
  • calories

All this information can later be exported in several formats, including.TCX or.GPX.

Training programs

  • As is often the case with this type of product, Garmin offers various training programs for running and cycling to help you progress according to your goals.
  • Training plans can be filtered according to their level of difficulty and intensity, and can then be added to your Garmin calendar. However, unlike a Polar M400 for example, the watch does not necessarily guide you during training, so the functionality allows you to discover programs that make sense for you.
  • In practice, all you need to do is go to the Garmin Training Programs page and select the one that fits your needs. It is possible to filter training according to three levels, and whether you use a heart rate monitor or not.
  • Imagine here that we were going on training for a 10km Level 1 with HRM. The latter takes place over 12 weeks, with three training sessions per week. By clicking on the training, you get the complete program of it, with a detail of the daily activities cut out week by week. The “Plan” button at the top of the page allows you to add the training to your calendar by selecting its start date.
  • You can then find the details of each training by coming to connect every day on Garmin Connect (or directly from the mobile application, we talk about it a little lower). Where it stuck is that the details of your training cannot be displayed on the screen of the watch!

Garmin Connect app

Available for iOS and Android, the Garmin Connect app can find all the information stored on your Garmin Connect account directly from your smartphone or tablet.

Since the Garmin Forerunner 15 does not have a Bluetooth connection, it is still necessary to sync the watch data via Garmin Express before you can also find them on your application.

For the rest, the app is rather intuitive and can easily find all your statistics in a few finger movements. As on the online platform, you can choose the widgets to display as well as their order. However, it is impossible to add the Garmin Calendar for the moment, which would have been particularly useful for finding the details of training plans directly on your phone.

Conclusion

Designed for beginners to advanced athletes wishing to follow their activity and their sporting evolution, the Garmin Forerunner 15 confirms the good impressions left by the FR10. As a GPS watch and activity sensor in one product, the FR15 is attractive, especially with its particularly attractive price. If it is not as advanced as other models more upscale, with for example the absence of automatic synchronization via Bluetooth or WiFi, it is still very complete, especially thanks to the platform and mobile application Garmin Connect.

Its different sizes and colors allow the FR15 to adapt to each and discover step by step the many advantages of a GPS watch to follow his career in a magnifying glass. Being able to connect a heart monitor is another benefit, with improved waterproofing and battery life compared to the previous generation.

In short, you will understand, if you are looking for a GPS watch for running without breaking your piggy bank, the Garmin ForeRunner 15 is the ideal candidate.

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