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GPS watch that can track a variety of activities and…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $200

Summary

GPS watch that can track a variety of activities and generate a load of helpful data about your activities. Stand-alone GPS means you can leave your smart phone at home. Waterproof with outstanding battery life, so fit for bad conditions, swims, stream crossings, and trips. Can download apps that add functionality.

Pros

  • Stand-alone GPS
  • Waterproof
  • Serious ability to collect data about activities
  • Can add apps
  • Great battery life
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • Not as many functions as more expensive models.

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The Garmin Forerunner 235 falls in the middle of its wrist-worn GPS units. Garmin sells a few less-expensive fitness trackers and running watches; the 235 is a step up from those in terms of advanced function for runners. Garmin also sells a range of more expensive GPS watches that can port music to wireless headphones and offer functions like an altimeter and mapping.

DEVICE DETAILS: The 235 has a 45-mm face, color screen, and rubber wristband. It will run 8-9 days on a charge if you don't use the GPS function; regular GPS-tracked running or hiking, you'll need to charge it every couple of days. The watch isn't a touch screen, you navigate with buttons. It's fully waterproof for swimming and showering, but it's not a dive watch. The device is plastic, very lightweight. Screen is easy to read in daylight and has backlighting for the dark.  

GPS works whether you have your smart phone with you or not. GPS locks into satellites quickly and link to both GPS and GLONASS satellites (Russian satellites), which helps increase accuracy. I used a less sophisticated Garmin fitness tracker that doesn't have the same satellite capability; the other fitness tracker took a fair bit longer time to lock in to satellites, which was frustrating.  the 235 ties to satellites within a few seconds.  

As you can see below, it has the time, battery level (about 50%, right above the time), and date on the home screen.  
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Though it's sideways, this shows current pulse, average resting pulse, and has some graphics showing heart rate throughout the day.  
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DATA/TRACKING CAPABILITIES: provides real-time pulse from your wrist—reasonably but not precisely accurate—and can attach by Bluetooth to a chest pulse monitor if you need to track heart rate with high precision. tracks steps, mileage, speed. Has built in training functions for cycling and treadmill running; you can add apps for other activities, such as the dedicated swimming app I added. Gives you VO2 max data that approximates aerobic fitness. 


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This shows some data from a morning hike a little while ago. This screen show mileage and total time elapsed.  Pretty flat hike, I was moving about 16 minute miles. other available screens show real time heart rate, minutes per mile, steps.  

All the data the 235 generates runs via Bluetooth into an app on your smart phone (or computer, I suppose) called Garmin Connect. The application takes a little time and exploring to learn, but you can look at and categorize information in a variety of ways. For example, it's easy to see how many miles I walked over the last week, four weeks, six months, twelve months, and do the same for heart rate and a variety of other data points. 

If you are willing to wear it at night, the device also tracks sleep. as someone who tends to burn the candle and not sleep enough, I really like having this information to help remind myself to hit the sack earlier. (Sleep affects everything—attention span, endurance, muscle recovery.) 

The device can also link to other dedicated sports applications like Strava; can track mileage specific to each type of shoe or boot you wear, if you want to keep data about shoe usage. 

Finally, this can give you notifications if you carry your smart phone—will show incoming email, texts, calls on the screen, signaled by vibration. Another screen has basic weather data like temperature and temperature range for the day.   

COMMENTS ABOUT ACCURACY: Some of the device's tracking functions are more accurate than others. GPS and steps are quite accurate. Heart rate...depends. With a chest strap, excellent. Without, normal use is accurate, but I think the pulse tracking during high intensity workouts isn't as accurate—close, maybe 90-95%, but not perfect. Also, pulse tracking doesn't work when you're swimming.  

TAKEAWAYS: This watch offers a pretty amazing amount of function for $200 in a very lightweight package that's easy to wear. Higher end Garmin GPS watches can give you a fancier or more rugged exterior, barometric pressure, altimeter function, mapping, music handling, longer battery life, and sophisticated triathlon-specific functions—for a price, and in a larger watch in many cases. For me, this combination has been outstanding.   

Experience

A couple of months with this one; a couple of years including other Garmin GPS wrist wear.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Great review, Andrew. That is a very reasonable price for all of those functions.


2 months ago

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