Garmin announced the Forerunner 230 ($249.99) and Forerunner 235 in tandem late last year, one was to push their in house Elevate heart rate monitoring tech while the other caters to the group of runners who’d rather put their trust on the chest worn heart rate monitors.
I spent a week with the Forerunner 230 and found that in essence both GPS watches are identical save for the presence of an optical heart rate sensor on the Forerunner 235. So you’ll find that both my Forerunner 230 and Forerunner 235 reviews appear similar.
- 24/7 fitness tracker. Tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep.
- GPS+Glonass enabled with smart or per second tracking
- Vibration and audio enabled for smart notifications, alarms, move alerts
- Expand and read full messages on display
- Pick up phone calls only
- Heavily customisable in terms of display fields
- Garmin Connect IQ compatible for apps and watch face downloads
- VO2 Max score, recovery advisor and race time predictor with chest strap HRM
- Manual, automatic laps for 1km/1 mile or customised distance
- Auto pause during tracked runs
- Back to Start feature
- Interval run features
- Water resistant to 5 ATM
- Big screen that is not touch enabled
- Sunlight readable screen with back light
- 5 weeks in watch mode with activity tracking enabled and up to 16 hours in tracking mode.
- Displays weather and upcoming calender events on watch.
- Create workouts, plan training on Garmin Connect web platform.
- User interface on Forerunner 230 GPS watch could be improved
- No virtual racer feature which is available on FR 25
- Requires external heart rate monitor
Read on for the in depth review and pictures!
LOOK AND FEEL
Like the Forerunner 235, the Forerunner 230 is of plastic built and has 5 buttons. In terms of appearance, the 2 device look identical save for the optical heart rate sensors which is absent on the Forerunner 230.I always appreciated the new Forerunner series look and I’m not surprised the new triathlon focused Forerunner 735 XT adopted the same appearance as the Forerunner 230 and 235 as shown in the picture below.The screen performs outstandingly under sunlight, and visibility under low light is more than adequate. That being said, it can’t be compared to what smart phone screens can dish out so you’ll have to be realistic. The Forerunner 230 is lightweight and sports a big screen which will come in really handy during training.The display is not touch enabled and all controls are activated via the 5 buttons on the side of the watch bezel. I thought that’s a good decision on Garmin’s part. Wet fingers and touch screens is like fire and ice, just doesn’t go together.
The charging cable is proprietary and features a clamp design that ends off with a USB end. The same charging cable also works for the FR235, FR630 and FR735XT.Garmin’s Connect IQ store, where independent developers can create and upload watch faces and apps, has an entire list of widgets, apps and watch faces. You could literally spend hours here looking for the perfect watch face.
The watch is rated 5ATM water resistant and battery life is expected to 5 weeks in watch mode with activity tracking enabled and up to 16 hours in tracking mode.
This is significantly longer than the Forerunner 235 that has a battery sucking optical heart rate sensor.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
Exercise recording profile
The Forerunner 230 has 5 training profiles which cannot be changed. There’s run, run indoors, bike, bike indoors and others.You can choose to hide any of those if you feel you’re not likely to use a particular profile. Each profile can be further personalised to your preference in terms of GPS/ GLONASS activation, alerts, auto lap distances and so on. You just need to invest the time to tweak the device to your liking.There’s a lot of data the Forerunner 230 can capture during a tracked session of run. You can see:
- Running dynamics such as cadence and stride length
- Pace, Speed
- Lap time
- Elevation based on map data
- Heart rate (when used together with heart rate monitor)
The Forerunner 230 does not have a barometer so the elevation is based on GPS map data.
In indoor running mode, the Forerunner 230 is able to use the in built accelerometer to estimate the distance covered. This feature will become more accurate overtime after a few GPS activated runs outdoors.
Under each training mode, you have the option of customising up to 2 screens with 4 data fields each, giving you a total of 8 displayable fields on top of clock and heart rate.
You can see the 3 fields data screen compared to a 2 fields data screen in the picture below.The customisable fields list is extremely long so I’ll just listing a few of the headings:
- Timer fields: Lap time/ last lap time/ average lap time/ elapsed time.
- Distance fields: Distance/ lap distance/ last lap distance
- Pace fields: Average pace/ lap pace/ last lap pace
- Speed fields: Average speed/ lap speed/ last lap speed/ maximum speed
- Heart rate fields: Average HR/ HR zone/ HR% max/ %HRR/ Avg HR% max/ Avg %HRR/ Lap HR/ Lap% HRR/ Lap% HR max/ Time in Zone
There’s also cadence, temperature, elevation and others fields which requires additional purchase of Garmin accessories.
In order to fully utilise the training features in the Forerunner 230, you’ll have to do some homework on your part. For example create workouts, tweak your own interval duration and distance and so on.
The “homework” can be done on Garmin Connect online where it’ll be synced to the watch afterwards.
The Forerunner 230 has 3 physiological stats for the user which will only be provided when tracked workouts take place with a heart rate monitor.
- Recovery Advisor
- VO2 max estimate
- Race predictor
I was able to receive the physiological readings after a an outdoor workout with plenty of slopes. The manual did state that it’ll take a few runs for the FR230 to provide a more accurate estimate of the physiological readings and you’ll need to wear a HRM for the physiological readings to appear.
Recovery Advisor is powered by FirstBeat, the same company that also provides support to other big names on the market like Samsung, Suunto, Garmin and many more. You’ll also be provided the number of hours to rest before the next hard workout.
There’s also the race predictor that will supposedly give you an estimate of your finishing times for 5K, 10K, half and full marathon.
GPS + GLONASS
The Forerunner 230 is both GPS and GLONASS enabled though the user has the choice of deciding whether turning on the GPS only would suffice. Enabling both location tracking features will no doubt sap battery life.
Plus you also have to option of deciding if smart recording or every second recording will suit you.
My personal belief is that unless I have difficulty reaching charging facilities, I will go with GPS+GLONASS in every second mode for more accurate data,
24/7 Activity Tracking
The Garmin Forerunner 230 functions as an all day activity tracker that records steps, distance, calories and sleep.
Sleep is automatic though what the Garmin hardware does is pre-set a time when you usually sleep. During sleep, the quality of sleep is further quantified by the amount of movement sensed by the watch.
Unless there’s loads of research and data backing the accuracy of fitness devices in tracking sleep, I usually just focus on the duration slept above everything else.
The Garmin Connect mobile app platform is not the best I’ve seen and while it’s chocked full of information, sometimes it helps to be concise. I’m currently on a few other fitness tracker platforms and all I can say is that Garmin Connect gets the job done, but it’s not the best I’ve used.
Once the Forerunner 230 senses that you’ve been inactive for a while, a single red bar will eventually start to fill up and when full an alert will go off in the form of a vibration or audio beep and the word “Move” will show up on the display.
This is just a gentle reminder to get up and walk around after which the move alert counter will reset. The “Move” alert can be switched off under settings.
The Forerunner 230 has gone the whole nine yards when it comes to smart notifications. Besides being able to expand and read all messages from SMS text and app notifications such as those from Google Maps.I was also able to customise if an audio beep, vibration or a combination of both are to go off when an alert comes on.
You can also customise the level of smart notifications during activity recording and outside of activity recording. Take for example, I could switch off all smart notifications when I run outdoors but the minute I cease running tracking, all smart notifications are enabled. Something like that.
When connected to your mobile device, the Forerunner 230 automatically lists the upcoming calender events and weather information.
Some other functions can also be activated under the “Controls” panel which serves as a shortcut of sorts.
- Find my phone
- Do not disturb mode
- Bluetooth features
- Manual sync
Auto pause: Kicks in when the Forerunner 230 senses that the runner has stopped during an activity tracking session. You can further set this function to kick in when you go slower than a set speed.
ANT+ sensors and accessories: The Forerunner 230 is compatible with Garmin’s foot pod and VIRB camera if you have either, and of course Garmin’s ANT+ heart rate monitors.
FORERUNNER 230 IN A NUTSHELL
Between the Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 230, I would recommend the latter if you’re not a stickler for accuracy associated with chest worn heart rate monitors.
Save for the inconvenience of ensuring that there’s a heart rate monitor during training, the Forerunner 230 is a runner’s best friend and is both comfortable and stylish enough to be worn all day.
Now all that there’s left do is to actually go out and run.The Garmin Forerunner 230 is readily available at most online and brick and mortar retailers. There’s Black/White, Forece Yellow and Purple Strike.