Garmin Forerunner 230 Review

***The Forerunner 230 is now on sale!! Check the price on Amazon here***

The Garmin Forerunner 230 is a solid improvement on its predecessor, the Forerunner 220. It’s also a near identical copy to the Forerunner 235 (see our full comparison here), but without wrist heart rate. But how much better is it? And should you upgrade from an older model? Read our Forerunner 230 review to find out…

Physical Dimensions

First off, the Forerunner 230 is a tiny bit smaller than the 220, both in diameter and thickness. But what’s cool is how Garmin managed to make the display almost a 1/4 of an inch larger by shrinking the size of the bezel. The screen resolution is upgraded and now has a few extra pixels. This means 230’s screen is larger and easier to read than ever and it can show 4 data screens (vs. 3 on similar Garmin models).

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Battery life gets a 60% increase – up to 16 hours in activity mode vs. 10 hours in the 220. So you should have to charge the watch less often….

…except that Garmin included activity tracking. You can wear the watch all day and it will count steps, create step goals, and give you “move” reminders if you’ve been sitting in one place for too long. Using this function will have a modest impact on battery life.

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Activity tracking is creeping into many of Garmin’s newer watches. While Fitbits and the like are typically associated with casual exercise or walking – I feel it can still be a useful feature for all runners. Studies have come out indicating that sitting for long periods of time – even among runners – is bad for our health. In my own experience, I feel like my running has improved by adding walking breaks to my otherwise sit-around-on-my-butt-all-day routine.

Features

The 230 also has smartphone connect-ability. Meaning, that like the Apple Watch, you can receive phone notifications (email, text, etc) and control music with the 230; however, for both these features you need to pair the watch to the phone and keep them in close proximity. Not too useful unless you regularly bring your phone on runs.

Have you ever wondered what your VO2 Max was? Hey now! The 230 stole this function off the outdated Forerunner 620 so you can now have a rough estimate of your aerobic threshold. Be forewarned – you will need to wear the chest-strap heart rate monitor. But with this data, the 230 can also display training effect, Garmin’s best guesstimate of how hard your run was (displayed numerically 1 to 5). It will also activate the recovery adviser, Garmin’s suggested recovery time (in hours) between runs.

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Finally, the Forerunner 230 is compatible with Connect IQ. This is Garmin’s home for 3rd party apps that can be loaded on the watch. Think different kinds of clock faces, new ways to display heart rate and other data – one app will even display the weather! But Connect IQ is a relatively new feature. It remains to be seen whether it becomes a useful addition.

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Summary

Overall, I really like the updates Garmin made with the 230. Key changes are its smaller size and bigger screen – PLUS better battery life. Those two changes alone are worth upgrading. The added features are nice but seem like more of an afterthought – as if Garmin needed to show something new, so they took some features found on older, high-end watches, and tossed them in the 230 to “improve” it. That being said, if you want a mid-range GPS watch and don’t care about tracking heart rate – this is the watch to buy.


PROS:

  • Great battery life
  • Smaller watch; bigger display
  • Best new feature: activity tracking

CONS:

  • Battery life is still well behind other models like the 920XT and fenix 3 (both 20+ hours)
  • No multi-sport. The watch is best for runners, not other activities

WHO SHOULD BUY THIS WATCH
Runners

Yes, yes, and yes. For intermediate and experienced runners who don’t care about heart rate monitoring, this is the watch to get!

Cyclists

Yes, but only to track basic metrics: time, speed, distance.

Swimmers

The watch is waterproof but won’t do more than time your swims in the water.

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FEATURES

Hardware

Battery-life: up to 16 hours exercise mode; 5 weeks watch mode (no GPS)

Water-proof to 50 meters

Color display

Data Tracking

Time, Distance, and Speed/Pace

Calories

Heart rate calculated calories

Workout History

200 hours

Remembers Personal Records

Alerts & General Features

Auto lap

Auto pause

Time/distance audible and vibration alerts

Activity Tracking (steps, goals, reminders)

Smart notifications (emails, texts, etc. – when paired and near smartphone)

Training Aids

Interval workouts

Customizable workouts

VO2 Max Estimate

Recovery Adviser

Race Predictor

Syncing

Downloads activities to your computer

Shares workouts on Facebook and Twitter (using Garmin Connect)

Syncs with smartphones

Accessories

Heart rate monitor (chest strap only)

Food pod

Bike cadence sensor

Other Functions

Time of day

Date

Alarms

Stopwatch

Music control (on phone when paired together)

Connect IQ – download Garmin’s apps

Editor's choice 2015