Garmin Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS-watch review

The FR 235 is a great GPS + heart-rate tracker for running and cycling. There are cheaper alternatives (notably from TomTom). If your budget allows for this model, buy it ($330 here). You won’t regret it.

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Several very thorough reviews have been written that go into the Garmin 235’s features in great depth — if you want a long version I recommend the one at dcrainmaker. On this page I offer you, by contrast, a (very) short review of the Garmin Forerunner 235 fitness tracker/GPS watch based on daily real-world experience. I bought one with my own money, and use it for my own running.

Footnote: I’m a 30-something guy with a desk job who trail-runs 2x per week. If you are seriously into triathlon or swimming you may want something more fancy like a Fenix 5.

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is available in these colours

The Good:

  • Attractive round-faced design
  • Excellent GPS tracking
  • Very good built-in optical Heart Rate monitor
  • Great battery life (I get 9 days when running 2x or 3x per week)
  • Good ergonomics
    • lightweight
    • intuitive buttons
    • always-on display
    • display works great in bright sunlight
    • customizable
  • Useful as a smart watch (iOS / Android notifications)
  • Customizable watch face (classic analogue, digital, etc.)
  • You can swim with it (rated 50 m waterproof)
  • Features that help you quantify your fitness and training (VO2Max estimate, recovery advisor, activity tracker, training effect)

The not-so-good:

  • Plastic; will eventually scratch during normal use
  • No barometric altimeter (although GPS altitude works better than I expected)
  • Pairs with phone over bluetooth but doesn’t support external bluetooth sensors (uses ANT+ instead)
  • No touch screen (although some people will prefer it this way)
  • No music player
  • Very little on-board storage for apps
  • Odd distinction between custom downloadable watch faces, widgets and apps
  • More expensive than the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio

Bottom Line:

The Garmin 235 is a good-looking runner’s/cyclist’s watch that focuses on core functionality, which it does very well. It also has smartwatch features but never lets these detract from its core functionality.  Fitness trackers and smart watches are still evolving at a rapid pace – every year brings new models with better performance, new features and better designs. Unless you’re rolling in cash I’d recommend rather buy mid-range and update every few years than splurge on a titanium-and-sapphire range-topping watch like the Fenix 5.

My Garmin 235 (Marsala colour). That display is just beautiful in the sun (here in standby mode with classic watch face)