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£159.99 from Wiggle (currently reduced from £199)
Garmin has found itself recently in the fortunate position of being a noun. Like Hoover, it’s a brand name that has become synonymous with GPS products and, specifically here, running watches. I’ve heard runners ask, “do you use a Garmin?”, when what they really mean is, “do you track your running activities through the use of a GPS enabled watch?”
Like Hoover though, there is always the possibility of another brand usurping the throne and taking the top spot. Dyson? That’ll never take off? Napster? They don’t even own a record press, how can they compete with a huge record label? Etc etc.
So Garmin need to keep quality high in all models (even budget) and innovation front of mind.
The FR 225 is a mid-market, competitively priced offering, sharing many features with the FR 220, with the addition of an optical heart rate monitor. Three years ago this would have been an innovation, however there are now many other similarly featured products on the market, including the TomTom Runner Cardio.[caption id="attachment_69950" align="alignright" width="311"] Garmin Forerunner 225 review
So where does the Garmin add value? We’ll go into feature details shortly but as a runner who has tested the FR225 in both training and races, this watch performs very well at:
– Current pace is very accurate and I would go as far as saying that this helped me towards a half marathon PB in 1:23:30. I have always taken current pace with a pinch of salt previously but this has been consistently accurate.
– The GPS connection time was very good. This staves off boredom in summer but in the winter stops you standing around in the cold/wet/wind hopelessly holding your wrist to the sky in hope of a quicker connection.
– The data upload to the Garmin Connect iPhone app was SO quick. Even with 13 miles worth of info to upload, the process has never taken more than 10 seconds to connect and upload.
GPS watches come in a variety of shapes and sizes and Garmin have got it just about right with the FR225. At a weight of 54g it is over 10g heavier than the FR 220 however after wearing it for over 100 miles, not once did I ever think, ‘boy this watch sure is heavy!’ I didn’t even notice I was wearing it.
– The strap is a regular double pin with metal fastener, and fits well even on my small bony wrists.
– The optical heart rate monitoring unit not noticeable and doesn’t dig in or leave too much of a mark.
– The display is coloured which may not have made much of a practical difference, but it looks pretty cool.
Rear face view
The first thing to say here is that the FR225 is fully button operated with zero touch-screens anywhere. Hallelujah! My experience with touch screen running watches was not great (try swiping right to see your pace on a dark night in torrential rain). No, buttons are much more my thing!
The 225 is navigated using the ‘up/down’ buttons on the lower left and the ‘go’ and ‘back’ buttons on the right. This combination allows you to easily move between and update settings and the ‘go’ button being red (i.e. launch nukes NOW) is a nice touch. Mind out though, you have to press the red button a couple of times to actually start your activity.
The main display is digital/number based and above this are three small icons representing GPS lock, Bluetooth connect and heart rate detection. All will flash whilst searching and become solid once locked on/connected/found, with the watch also giving a contented little buzz to let you know.
Upon using the watch for training it’s very easy to navigate this section of the watch’s settings, for example if setting out to do some intervals, simply enter the details and the watch will coach you through the session.
Watch charging seems to have been the hardest thing for smart and GPS watch manufacturers to get right. How can you design a device that can connect to a satellite in space, track your movement and send all your data to the internet, but NOT design a charger that stays on! The Forerunner 110 was the most annoying. I had to set up an ornate contraption using pegs and string to balance the watch and the charger in such a way that it stayed charging! The TomTom Runner was the other end of the scale, a solid unit that stayed in place and would pass the lasso test.
All that brings me to say that although the FR225 charging connection isn’t quite as fool proof as the Tom Tom’s, once you’ve found the magic ‘click’, it stays in place.
The battery lasts through around 25 miles of running on average which is pretty impressive. So I could go for a 13 miler on Sunday, quick 5k on Mon and a 4 miler on Tuesday before having to recharge again.
As previously mentioned this watch is super quick to upload data to the Garmin Connect iPhone app. As in 10 seconds quick. No sooner had I started the upload process, I was receiving ‘kudos’ on Strava for my run, with it having uploaded and sync’d almost instantly.
Garmin have really worked on their Garmin Connect software recently. I remember when it was a web only desktop nightmare to try and upload runs and try to figure out data! The iPhone app version is visually good, presents data well and there were no bugs when I used it. Synchronisation with Strava took moments
This is a feature laden watch however these are more in-line with the rest of the industry rather than driving innovation:
Physical & Performance
|Physical dimensions||11.3” x 1.9” x 0.6” (287 mm x 48 mm x 16 mm)|
|Display size, WxH||1.0″ (25.4 mm) diameter|
|Display resolution, WxH||180 x 180 pixels|
|Weight||1.9 oz. (54 g)|
|Battery life||Up to 4 weeks in watch mode; up to 10 hours in GPS mode with optical HRM|
|Water rating||5 ATM|
|Watch functions||Includes date and alarm|
Maps & Memory
|History||200 hours of activity data|
|Accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without need for a foot pod)|
|Heart rate monitor||Yes (wrist-based)|
|Foot pod||Yes (optional)|
|Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed)||Yes|
|Auto Lap® (automatically starts a new lap)||Yes|
|Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout)||Yes|
|Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts)||Yes|
|Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace)||Yes|
|Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals)||Yes|
|Heart rate-based calorie computation||Yes|
|Calculates calories burned||Yes|
Activity Tracking Features
|Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)|
|Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)|
|Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)|
|Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data)|
|Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)|
The only real competition for the Garmin Forerunner 225 is the TomTom Cardio Runner (and the 2nd gen of this). The Fitbit Surge and Adidas Smart Run both have more features in terms of daily activity tracking as well as the Adidas having a built-in music player. The heart rate monitor in the FR225 and the TomTom is the same, built by Mio.
The heart rate tracking was the only slight worry I had after 100 miles of racing and training. At first it seemed to be wildly off and fluctuating during runs. To combat this, I initially tightened the strap (#1 enemy to optical HR monitors is external light) which made a bit of a difference but also left a deep strap mark on my wrist after use. I also tried turning the watch to the underside of my wrist (this worked with the TomTom) but this again only made a small difference.
What do I want from a watch?
– I want to be able to put it on and not have my run delayed waiting for GPS lock – CHECK
– I want in-run data to be easily accessible at a glance – CHECK
– To feel like I can reply on the pace/time/GPS data – CHECK
– Easily upload my run data to Strava – CHECK
On balance and given that the price of this watch has recently come down to be closer to the TomTom, I would opt for this over the TomTom largely due to the quick activity upload time.
Currently £159.99 from Wiggle – see here