A little more than two years after the release of the Garmin FR225 that we were testing here, the brand is back with the Forerunner 235. In the idea, this new FR235 broadly resumes the design and functionality of the previous version, adding a few welcome options, as we will see later in this article.
As a reminder, there is also an FR230 version, which is in all respects identical to the FR235, with the only difference that it does not have an optical heart rate sensor. Designed primarily for runners, the two watches obviously have a built-in GPS, to track its course, its pace, and many other indicators accurately.
The new Garmin Forerunner 235 is offered at an engine price of € 349, but it is often possible to find more interesting rates, especially at Amazon. After a fortnight showed the wrist, complete return and imaged on the beast in the rest of the article.
Packaging side, no big news on the side of Garmin. The watch is always offered in a rectangular cardboard packaging, whose transparent plastic front panel offers a direct view of the product. Small pictograms list the main features of this new FR235 (GPS, notifications, activity sensor and compatibility Connect IQ) while a small paragraph at the back of the box presents the many advantages of the watch.
On the flanks, the focus is quickly put on the different screens that can be displayed by the watch, and the Garmin Connect application that will find all its information directly from his smartphone.
Once all this unpacked, the watch is accompanied by a proprietary cable that connects to USB and allows charging the battery and updating the internal software. It may also be possible to use the latter to transfer this data, even if in logic most users will opt for wireless synchronization via Bluetooth. In addition to this cord, there is obviously a complete user manual and a booklet for warranty and security.
Design & Ergonomics
As explained above, the FR235 broadly reflects the design of the FR225 ( see price ). We therefore always find a large circular dial, in which a color screen can display the many information available. Unlike the Vivoactive model ( see the price ), it is not here in touchscreen, and it will, therefore, use the various buttons positioned around the dial to navigate the different pages of indicators and menus.
They are 5 in number and offer an intuitive navigation and very easy to take in hand, even during the effort. Their operation:
- Button 1: Activate the backlight with a single press. By holding down, it is possible to turn off or on the watch.
- Buttons 2 and 3: They are used to navigate between different pages and menus. From the home screen, you can use them to view his activity of the day, his notifications, his heart rate or the current weather. During a training session, they will be used to switch from one indicator page to another.
- Button 4: It allows to validate an action in the menus, but also to start and finish the recording of a sports activity.
- Button 5: Mainly used to go back to the previous page in the menus, but also to manually notify the end of a turn during a workout.
Regarding the screen, it displays a resolution of 215 x 180 pixels, offering a beautiful readability both indoors and outdoors. The different colors used are well-spoken and offer ergonomics a little more neat than on models like the TomTom Spark for example.
On the side of the bracelet, no significant changes. We stay on a rather nice soft-touch rubber model, whose many perforations allow the wrist to breathe properly during the effort. The closure system also remains the same, with a classic clasp ensuring excellent support. On the scale, the set displays a weight of 42 g, which remains relatively light. No need to change a winning team.
At the first start of the FR235, a series of questions can best configure the watch according to its user. After selecting the language of use, it will be possible to define the metric format used, the display of the time, the sex, the year of birth, the weight and finally the size. This latest information is particularly useful for refining the calculation of calories burned at rest and during exercise.
The second step is to synchronize your watch with your Garmin Connect account. To do this, two methods. The first is simply to connect the watch to a computer and download the Garmin Express software. Then simply follow the various indications displayed on the screen. If you do not already have a Garmin Connect account, an assistant will also suggest you create one.
The second method is done without any cable, passing directly through the mobile application Garmin Connect and the Bluetooth connection of a Smartphone. Once installed, simply go to the “Add a device” menu, select the Garmin Forerunner 235 watch and enter a code on the screen to complete the pairing.
Once paired, it is likely that an update is available since Garmin is regularly evolving its products on the software side. The process is done intuitively enough, following the indications displayed on the dial of the watch.
Monitoring activity and sleep
- Before embarking on the bulk of our test, with the training of foot races, some small details about the monitoring of the activity. Indeed, since the model FR220, Garmin integrates within its GPS watches an option allowing to use these as real activity trackers. Clearly, like a Vivosmart bracelet ( see price ), the FR235 is capable of automatic recording the number of steps taken, the distance traveled, calories burned or active minutes.
- If wearing a sports wrist watch all day (and sometimes at night) is not a problem, it is a rather interesting solution to avoid in particular to multiply the devices. Admittedly, it’s not as complete as the specific models of the brand, but it’s still a good point.
- Directly from the watch, it is possible to consult at any time the number of steps made by pressing the down arrow twice. There, a gauge in the shape of a semicircle is filled up as and your day according to the defined objective. The latter can be set manually, or adjust automatically based on previous results.
- In the center on this half-gauge, we find the number of steps, as well as the percentage that it represents the objective. Below, the distance traveled and calories burned are shown.
- There is also a red bar between the first gauge and the number of steps. This last represents in some way your inactivity. When you stay a little too still, it is filled and shows you then to move a few minutes to reset it. An interesting option, reminding that it is never very good to stay for example sitting too long behind a computer. It is also possible to find this bar from the main screen of the watch, on the left side of the dial. Note that it is obviously possible to disable this feature, although we can only advise you to leave it on the road permanently.
- The FR235 is also able to track your sleep, so keeping it on your wrist overnight is not a problem for you. Interestingly, it is not necessary to manually activate the recording of your nights, because the watch is now able to recognize all of it on its own. The recorded information is then not directly visible from the watch, but only accessible from your Garmin Connect account (either via the online version or from the mobile application).
- Speaking of the mobile application, the daily activity data is automatically synchronized when it is opened; provided Bluetooth is enabled. By default, the main screen displays a summary of the current day. At the top of the screen, two circles indicate the number of steps taken and the number of hours of sleep last night.
- Below, we find the calories burned actively, the activities of the day and the so-called intensive minutes. For each indicator, it is possible to go into detail to get more complete graphs and history of its different results.
- Swiping to the left, you access a page showing the number of steps made over the last 30 days. An additional swipe and it is the detail of the last seven nights that is displayed. For each night, it is possible to obtain information about the duration of total sleep, as well as the so-called phases of light and deep sleep.
- Back on the watch, it is also possible to consult at any time its heart rate. By pressing the down button, the dial displays the current heart rate as well as the heart rate. Below, a chart details even the heart rate over the last 4 hours, with different colors depending on the defined areas. By pressing the Start button, a second graph displays the average FCR over the last seven days, rather interesting.
- This information can also be directly accessed via the mobile application, by choosing the “Timeline” option. However, the readability is not good, and it will necessarily connect to his Garmin Connect account from a browser to find all these graphics in size more suitable for reading.
Set the FR235 before running
Like the previous models of the brand, the new Forerunner 235 offers many settings options before going head-to-head in a running training. By pressing the “Start” button, it is indeed possible to access a complete menu, where the vast majority of options can be directly configured from the watch.
The first part is called Activity Settings, and it is from there that we can manage the various information displayed on the screen during training, set up specific alarms, and much more.
In the Data screens section, it is possible to manage the display of the two main screens, but also to activate additional options such as the display of a dial specially designed for heart rate, the presentation of a dial having a gauge according to the heart rate zone, or to activate or not the lock screen.
By going to the Screen 1 or Screen 2, we find a novelty of the FR235 compared to the FR225, with the ability to display now not three but four fields on each dial. It remains obviously possible to display one, two or three fields. Then, simply choose the indicator to assign to each field.
Here is the list of available indicators:
- Chrono fields
- Circuit time
- Last time circuit
- Average duration of the circuit
- Time elapsed
- Fields of distance
- Circuit distance
- Last circuit distance
- Fields of pace
- Average pace
- Allure circuit
- Allure last circuit
- Speed fields
- Average speed
- Speed circuit
- Last circuit speed
- Maximum speed
- Heart rate fields
- Cardiac frequency
- Average heart rate
- Heart rate zone
- Training Effect
- % of maximum heart, rate
- % RFC
- Average and maximum heart rate
- Heart rate on circuit
- Time in zone
- Cadence fields
- Average cadence
- Cadence circuit
- Cadence last circuit
- Temperature fields
- Max in 24 hours
- Min in 24 hours
- Altitude fields
- Other fields
- Time [/ box]
As you can see, the list is rather long and especially exhaustive when it comes to running. Most users should be able to find their happiness, and with the number of options, we might have seen the possibility of displaying a third screen of data!
We now go to the part Alarms, which for simple allows being accompanied by several types of reminders during his training. Here again, the options are relatively numerous, since there are the following alarms:
- Custom alarms
- Drink (depending on time or distance)
- Eating (depending on time or distance)
- Half-turn (depending on time or distance)
- Return home (depending on time or distance)
- Custom (depending on time or distance)
- Heart rate alarm
- Allows you to define a low and high zone of your FC
- Run / Walk Alarm
- Set a running time and then a running time
- Pace alarm
- Set a low and high limit of your pace
- Time alarm
- Get a reminder every X minutes
- Distance alarm
- Provides a reminder every X kilometers.
- Calorie alarm
- Allows you to get a reminder after X calories burned [/ box]
As with the data screens, all of these options are easily adjustable from the watch, without going through the Garmin Connect app and your Garmin Connect account.
Fans of the brand already know the following parameters. We find the Auto-Lap function, which automatically switches to the next circuit according to the distance of your choice (1 km by default). It is also possible to set up a system of Auto-Pause, allowing as its name suggests to stop recording momentarily when one finds oneself stop at a red light for example. There is also the possibility of scrolling automatically different dials during the effort and some additional options.
Running with the Forerunner 235
- Once the watch is perfectly adjusted to your needs, it is time to embark on a first training. To do so, simply click twice on the Start button to start a session. In just a few seconds, the FR235 captures the GPS signal and your heart rate, and just press the Start button again to start recording.
- Once launched, we find the different information previously selected from the settings. In the example below, the first dial displays, for example, four fields: distance, Chrono, pace, and heart rate.
- On this session, the second dial is oriented towards the current circuit, with the distance traveled, the current time and the average pace on the latter.
- By scrolling through the following pages, one arrives on the heart rate dial, displaying the current HR FC area. Finally, going down one more step, we come across the gauge visually indicating the different areas of CF. Hard to do more talking.
- During the effort, it is possible at any time to manually indicate the end of a circuit, by pressing the Back button. By pressing the Start button, training is paused. We can then choose to continue this one or to record the session.
- A new dial displays the summary of the session, but also details of each circuit made. Small novelty, the watch also calculates the value VO2Max after each training. A dial also indicates the recommended recovery time after each session.
- In the same way as for activity tracking, all this information can then be viewed from your Garmin Connect account. Again, it is possible to go through the web platform (often more readable) or directly via the mobile application.
- You will find the different indicators of your trip, as well as a map of your route. This allows us to judge the accuracy of the GPS, which seems according to our tests always as effective. Not a surprise from Garmin.
- To analyze its data, we find on Garmin Connect complete tables showing the details of each circuit, but also charts tracing the evolution of your pace or your FC throughout the training.
- An important point regarding the heart rate measurement, the watch has a home optical sensor and no longer produced by MIO. This was already the case on the latest Garmin Vivosmart HR version.
- In practice, this sensor offers rather good results, provided you do not ask too much. Clearly, on endurance sessions, where the heart rate is relatively constant, the sensor is doing very well. However, as with the majority of competitors, it begins to hurt when you accelerate a little pace or training interval.
- The sensor is not yet as responsive as those found on conventional belts, and this may cause some concern depending on your level. At present, it is still complicated to obtain both the comfort of an optical sensor and the accuracy of a traditional sensor. However, technology is evolving fairly rapidly, and the gap is expected to narrow in the coming years.
- Now it’s time for personalized training since it is apparently possible to create your programs from Garmin Connect and then synchronize them with the Forerunner 235. We can set up several phases, such as training, running or recovery. Each time, it is possible to select several parameters such as the distance, the FC or the pace for example. Everything is intuitive and quick to set up.
- To send custom training to the watch, it will either go through the Garmin Express software by connecting the FR235 to his computer or go through the mobile application and download via Bluetooth. Note however that it is currently not possible to directly create or modify his training from the mobile application.
- Last point regarding running, the possibility of using the LiveTrackfeature. The latter allows sending a link to some of your contacts to follow you in real time during your different outings. A little extra, which allows your loved ones to easily track the progress of your session, by accessing your position on the map but also to different indicators (pace, FC, etc …).
Notifications and additional features
For the last few months, most GPS watches for athletes have been equipped with so-called smart features, bringing them a little closer to Smartwatch. The most concrete example is probably the Moto 360 Sport that we presented to you some time ago.
The Forerunner 235 is not as connected as an Apple Watch but has some rather interesting tools. The main thing is obviously access to notifications, from the moment the watch is connected to Bluetooth to your Smartphone. When receiving an SMS, a message on Facebook or a retweet on Twitter, you can be notified in real-time directly from the dial of the watch. A vibration also makes it possible to miss nothing of your social networks and other favorite applications. If a capsule is displayed when a notification is received, it is also possible to retrieve all of them from the main screen of the FR235, by pressing the Up button once from the clock face. There is also a Weather widget and a Calendar showing your future events.
Like the Garmin Vivoactive, the watch is also compatible with Connect IQ applications. For reminders, these small modules can be downloaded from the mobile application to add some additional options to the watch. For example, it is possible to change the look of the main dial or to change the appearance of the data screens during the race. We find everything and anything on the store, with even a module to track the number of beers down in the evening.
Importantly, the Garmin GPS watch is not able to handle the music playback of your smartphone via its Bluetooth connection. A small flat against the TomTom Spark or the Vivoactive.
Before finishing with this test, some small details about the independence of the Garmin Forerunner 235. The manufacturer announces nine days on standby (with activity monitoring and measurement of the regular heart rate), and up to 15 hours in GPS mode (with heart rate monitoring).
Figures rather very correct, although in practice our tests show that they are a little seen on the rise. In practice, with the regular Bluetooth connection and the many notifications, expect a week in classic use and 10-12 hours in GPS mode. Charging takes place relatively quickly, via a USB cable whose end shaped clamp will easily snap into the watch.
The new Garmin Forerunner 235 is a first-time watch for riders, whether they are beginners or already have a relatively confirmed level. Light, intuitive and above all very complete, challenging to blame much for this GPS watch placed in the mid-range of the manufacturer. Easy to take in hand, it offers a correct performance by providing many indicators to facilitate running training on foot. Obviously, everything is not perfect yet, with an integrated heart rate monitor that can sometimes show its limits in the most extreme situations. If you do not necessarily use it, his little sister Garmin Forerunner 230 offers a similar design and functionality, but without the optical sensor. Its cost is logically a little lower.
Still, if you are looking for an intuitive and complete watch, which can also track your daily business, the Garmin FR235 is probably one of the best value for the current market. If you want to be able to also manage your music from your watch, feel free to check out our test of the TomTom Spark, a direct competitor.