The Garmin Forerunner 225 ($299.99) is the first of Garmin’s GPS watches to feature in built optical heart rate sensors from Mio Global. The union has brought about a unique piece of hardware that is built to deliver even for the most stringent athlete. I had the Garmin Forerunner 225 for a week now and here’s what I have to say.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 225 IN SHORT:
- GPS enabled
- In built heart rate monitor
- Tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep
- Vibration enabled for exercise notifications and alarms
- Create your own workouts and send it to the Forerunner 225
- Access training programmes on Garmin Connect (Not available yet)
- Water resistant to 5 ATM
- Battery lasts up to 7 days with an hour of exercise tracking per day
- Both Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled
- Live tracking
- Powerful mobile app
- Running metrics
- Accelerometer estimates distance run indoors
- No smart phone notifications
LOOK AND FEEL
Chunky yet unbelievably light. I’m just a tad put off by the thickness of the GPS watch. Yet when I consider how Garmin managed to squeeze in a GPS tracker and an optical heart rate sensor on top of the ubiquitous accelerometer, backlit display, vibration motor and more, the thickness is quickly forgotten.Despite the huge display, the actual displayable estate is a mere 50% of the actual watch face. There are a total of 5 buttons on the side of the watch.
- One for backlit display
- One for scrolling up
- One for scrolling down
- One mimics the “back” function
- One mimics the “Enter” function
The multitude of functions will satisfy even the most picky consumer and overwhelm the weekend warriors who are just looking for an easy GPS cum heart rate monitor watch. Fret not, controls are surprisingly easy to pick up. I’ll come to that later.The back of the watch houses the optical heart rate sensor courtesy of Mio Global. I’ve had good experiences with both the Mio Alpha 2 and the Mio Fuse; excellent wrist worn heart rate monitors on their own but hampered by the lack of GPS functions.
An extra rubber ring helps to keep ambient light out. This is to ensure accurate reading of heart rate.This rubber ring is also replaceable.
The GPS watch is certified 5 ATM so it should shake off the shower splashes and handle the swims easily. The watch strap has a multitude of latch holes, presumably to ensure good ventilation and also for sizing. This is a good move since wrist worn heart rate monitors has to be worn tightly to ensure accurate readings.The screen has adjustable colour themes and the display is easily visible in day and night. (with back light activated)The charging cradle is proprietary and reminded me of the charging clamp on the Garmin Vivosmart. A full charge lasts about a week based on an hour of tracking every day.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
Heart rate measurement
What I particularly like is the light seal that blocks out all ambient light to ensure accurate heart rate readings. Garmin also sells this light seal seperately at $4.99 each. The slightly stretchable watch strap aids in allowing a slight stretch when wearing the Garmin Forerunner 225 to ensure a snug fit. Those factors combine to hopefully provide an ideal situation for accurate heart rate reading from the wrist.To test the accuracy of the HR measurements, I used the Scosche Rhythm+ wrist worn heart rate monitor as a comparison equipment. Unfortunately readings from both Garmin Forerunner 225 and Scosche Rhythm+ showed significant signs of difference at various points. I had to resort to testing it with the Polar H7 chest worn heart rate monitor.As expected, the HR graph appears similar but upon closer examination, the HR data from the Garmin Forerunner 225 appeared flatter and lacked the nuances compared to that of the chest worn Polar H7.
You have to bear in mind that at present , unlike chest worn heart rate monitor straps, optical heart rate sensors are affected by many factors such as ambient light and fit. Jon Ham, a consultant who worked on the Scosche Rhythm + wrote what I felt was a very detailed blog post explaining the science behind accurate optical heart rate readings. Though the article focuses on the Apple Watch, it’s worth a read nonetheless.
That being said, I believe the Garmin Forerunner 225’s HR readings should suffice for the most of us.
When heart rate monitoring function is activated, the watch face displays the current heart rate and also the training zone it falls under based on a simple 220 less age derived maximum heart rate for your age.
- Gray: Warm up zone.Starts at 50%
- Blue: Easy zone. Starts at 60%
- Green: Aerobic zone. Starts at 70%
- Orange: Threshold zone. Starts at 80%
- Red: Maximum zone. Starts at 90%
If you’re aware of your own resting heart rate and would like to further tweak the heart rate training zones, that too can be done on the Garmin Forerunner 225 itself or on the Garmin Connect mobile app.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 is one of the newer GPS enabled watches that has the ability to turn off both Bluetooth and GPS signals altogether as a means to conserve battery. Once unlocked the GPS watch will commence location tracking.
I didn’t have to wait long for the Garmin Forerunner 225 to get s strong signal outdoors. Throughout the review, I never had an incident when the signal dropped off.Once the location is pinpointed, a green logo will appear in place of the red one as shown in the picture above. Users can also start tracking without GPS signal. The accelerometer within the Garmin Forerunner 225 will estimate the distance and running stats.The GPS tracking feature provides both a variety of maps from which the user can superimpose their runs on. There’s actually more information on the Garmin Connect website where the display is many times that of a smart phone device. Within the mobile app itself users will also have access to information like:
- average and best pace
- information on elevation
- running dynamics in terms of stride length
That’s a lot of information that presents plenty of aspects for the runner to improve on. For example besides the race against time, running efficiency in terms of stride length for the individual and of course heart rate.I found the graphical display on the mobile app excellent in summarising workout data. You get elevation, pace, HR and cadence in one screen.The Garmin Forerunner 225 allows the user to spend time planning and saving training programmes into the GPS watch. This can take time and a bit of tinkling but it shouldn’t deter you if you’re serious about following a fitness regime.
There are 4 main menu tabs that essentially allow the user to access all the controls within the Garmin Forerunner 225.
My Workouts (Under “Trainings”)
I was able to easily create a generic workout of 5 minutes of warm up, a 5 km run followed by a 5 minutes warm down and have it exported easily to the Garmin Forerunner 225. This then becomes a workout I could regularly come back to since it’s a convenient 30-40 workout depending on how hard I push.
Calender (Under “Trainings”)
Intervals (Under “Trainings”)
Like I said, this watch can become an excellent training partner but it requires a bit of work on the user’s part to fully exploit the full potential of this amazing piece of fitness gear. And that can only come from tinkling and planning on Garmin Connect or on the Garmin Forerunner 225 for interval trainings.
If you’re keen to check back on past activities or even step count, the Garmin Forerunner 225 allows you to do that easily without needing to check the stats on the mobile devices. This is not a feature I use much since I usually have my smartphone device next to me.
Settings is where most of the “logistical” functions within the Garmin Forerunner 225 are found. For example, tweaking of language, backlight, theme colour and even adding of sensors such as foot pods. These are all found under “settings.”An extra feature which I especially liked under the “settings” is the ability to set silent alarms right from the watch.
24/7 Activity Tracking
Besides being athlete focused, the Garmin Forerunner 225 brings with it the 24/7 activity tracking functions which Garmin has done a great job at.
As an all day activity tracker, the Garmin Forerunner 225 offers tracked stats in the form of step count, calories burnt and sleep.The Garmin Forerunner 225 displays the steps taken for the day right on the watch screen. Toggling the up and down buttons will indicate other stats like the step goal for the day or distance travelled.
Sleep tracking is automatic and I was surprised to find that this function cannot be manually activated. This is not a big issue since the data can still be edited post-sleep. The user sets a regular sleep timing and the Garmin Forerunner 225 takes over once the lack of activity is detected.
I thought it’d be great if the Garmin Forerunner 225 could track heart rate throughout the night at regular intervals during sleep. That would give me an accurate sense of my resting heart rate.
Smartphone notifications. Nothing too fancy, perhaps just buzzes when phone calls come in or the display of notifications from communication apps. There’s definitely potential for that since the Garmin Forerunner 225 is Bluetooth enabled.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 has excellent battery life. I was able to go about a whole week without requiring charging. There was one night when I went a full 6 hours of tracking just to check how long the battery would last.While the mobile app dashboard served as an excellent information display tool, it is really the web dashboard that gets the planning and workout creation going. Coupled together, it makes for a formidable training partner with the Garmin Forerunner 225.
As with all Garmin products, the users of the Forerunner 225 automatically gets access to the wide array of functions in the Garmin Connect mobile app.As you continue to use Garmin’s line of activity trackers or GPS watches, you’ll accrue steps and distance that count towards badges. It’s not monetary but it’s a milestone nonetheless.This is the active calories screen capture from Garmin Connect mobile app. It adds up the calories burnt from walking and running.The mobile app is extremely comprehensive and deserves at least an hour of investigation from any user to fully explore the functions.If I had to grade on a scorecard, Garmin Connect will get an “A” for how much they managed to squeeze into a mobile app.
There’s also a “Live Tracking” function that allows either family or friends to check your running progress in real time. This requires that the Garmin Forerunner 225 be tethered to a connected smart phone device. Your progress will then be shown real time on the web with details like speed and elevation. Needless to say, this function will drain the battery of both GPS watch and smart phone device.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 225 IN A NUTSHELL
Garmin designed the Garmin Forerunner 225 with a specific group of users in mind, the runner who wants to improve his performance. The workouts, calender and interval training are telltale signs of runner-focused activities. With the on board optical heart rate sensor, those of us who are keen to improve our running metrics need no longer bother with chest worn heart rate monitors.I suspect this is just the first optical heart rate monitor enabled device to come out from Garmin. If the response is good, we can definitely expect another. Only time will tell.
At $299.99, the Garmin Forerunner is not priced for everyone. If you’re serious about training, it is definitely a worthy piece of equipment to consider. There are very few pieces of fitness equipment that can make a big impact on your performance and the Garmin Forerunner 225 is probably one of them.
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