I had quite a wait for my review sample of the Garmin Forerunner 225 – and I was counting the days, mostly because this is the first Garmin running watch with a built in heart rate monitor. I remember the days when I had to strap a GPS unit to my arm as well as a HRM to my chest, so having everything in one package is a real treat. Roll on the future!
The Forerunner 225 is not a multisports watch, but it does have great potential for anyone who wants to move up to running from a step-tracking wristband because Garmin has added in the ability to monitor steps and sleep – so you don’t lose out on keeping a record of your daily steps and in theory this could be all the running watch you’ll ever need.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Forerunner 225 is a big beast. On small wrists it is going to look and feel like a giant. When you consider how much tech is packed inside, the size and weight are both forgiveable, but it does feel a little annoying that the display looks a little bit lost inside the face. Garmin has disguised this by fashioning an outer frame which gives small indicators for the functions of each of the five side buttons, but still it is pretty obvious.
The strap is extra wide and chunky – I have to say it does not have the greatest aesthetic appeal to me and it felt a bit unwieldy to wear all day. Then again, people with chunkier wrists might be quite happy with it.
There are five buttons around the edges. These will be familiar to users of other Garmin sports watches. Because the Forerunner 225 doesn’t have a touch sensitive screen they are all you have to navigate its menus and settings and access its range of features. So the big red button top right is the one you use to unlock the Forerunner 225 from its time of day screen and to quickly start the timer. You also use it to acknowledge any messages the Forerunner send you.
There’s a backlight button top left, and you can also hold this down to turn the Forerunner completely off or switch it on. Bottom right is a button you press to take an auto lap. I’ve always found this really handy when I’m working on a circuit that is not a standard unit in measurement – say the perimeter of an open space. It is also the back button. Finally, bottom left, sit a pair of up and down scroll buttons that you’ll likely use a lot for working through the many menus on board.
Look on the underside and you’ll see the heart rate monitor. Now, it is worth pointing out a chest worn HRM will always be more accurate – it’s closer to your heart and so will pick up changes more quickly. If you want that level of accuracy then the Forerunner 225 will pair with a chest strap. For most of us, though, wrist worn HRMs are good enough, and as you use it over time you’ll of course develop comparative data. You will see, for example, if you are a newcomer to sports, how your resting heart rate falls over time, and that’s always gratifying!
Much about the use of the Forerunner 225 will be very familiar to any Garmin user. There are two activity display screens and you can customise them to each display three bits of data that’s important to you. The choices are: Timer, Lap Time, Distance, Lap Distance, Pace, Average Pace, Lap Pace, Speed, Cadence, Calories, Heart Rate (BPM), Average HR (BPM), HR Zone, Elevation.
There is also a heart rate zone screen that is available when you have the HRM sensor on.
In a bid to produce a strong all round product Garmin has integrated step counting and sleep tracking to the Foreunner 225. The main watch face screen is used to show everyday step based metrics, so you don’t have to fiddle with too many buttons to see how you are doing against your goal. You use the bottom left up and down buttons to toggle between displaying paces taken, goal paces, calories burned, heart rate, and distance travelled.
Incidentally – the heart rate sensor is not always on. It switches on when you go for a run, but when you are not running – for example when you are out for a walk or just resting, you can activate it and see how your heart is doing by cycling through the metrics I just described. When you get to the heart rate info it takes a few seconds for the monitor to get a count so you have to be patient. This information isn’t saved, so it’s just for current information purposes.
For this everyday pace counting side of things goal distance and paces are set automatically – so the more active you are the higher your goal and if you go through periods of less activity, the goal reduces. I can see the point of this as it gives you something to aim for every day, but some people really like the regularity of a standard steps or distance goal, and it would be nice to have the option to fix this at whatever steps or distance you fancy.
A gentle vibrating alert tells you if you’ve been immobile for too long. You can ignore it or get up and pace around a bit. In theory, as the evidence suggests that extended periods sitting down aren’t good for us, I approve of the move alerts. In practice I found them really annoying. Do you want to be told to move when you are having dinner, in the cinema or totally absorbed in a good book? I don’t, and nor do I want to have to remember to turn move alerts off. The trick, then, is to learn to ignore the alerts when you need to.
Sleep tracking is pretty basic. The Forerunner 225 automatically identifies deep sleep and light sleep depending on how you are moving about. You can’t see readouts about this on the Forerunner itself – you have to use the Garmin Connect software to show this data.
Garmin Connect is vital to getting the most out of the Forerunner 225. Available through your web browser and as apps for Android and iOS it is your route to seeing how all the metrics the Forerunner 225 gathers over time. It has been through a lot of changes over time, and the current design is mobile friendly and manages to cater for both the hardened user and the ‘step counter’ user, so you can track calories, monitor steps and even collect badges. The desktop app arranges info in the way it would on a handset screen – so that moving between the two is very familiar.
Hidden away – but not too deeply – are a host of host of training plans for different kinds of events from beginner up to full marathon at different ability levels.
Garmin loves its proprietary chargers and the fitting at the watch end of the Forerunner 225 is different from all predecessors – even the very similar predecessor to this watch the Forerunner 220. It is quite a sizeable thing to carry around, so the good news is that you will often be able to leave it at home because the Forerunner 225 holds it charge really, really well.
Garmin says it will last for about 4 weeks in ‘watch’ mode – i.e. just telling you the time, and ten hours in ‘training’ mode – i.e. with the GPS active. These seem broadly accurate With the GPS active power is taken more quickly of course, but as an everyday watch the Forerunner 225 really does go for weeks at a time without needing a charge.
You can use the charge cable to sync data through a PC, but even that isn’t necessary as the Forerunner 225 supports Bluetooth. Note, though, that battery life is saved by making the sync process manual. You need to press the red sync button on the watch to force a sync. That’s different to a lot of other devices which synchronise automatically, but forcing a sync is not actually a big deal.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 is aimed at runners so multisports enthusiasts will want to look elsewhere. It has a few irritations such as not saving resting heart rate data and having a movable stepcounter goal that you can’t override. Still, if you are currently a couch potato looking to train up to running non stop or doing actual races it could be all the watch you need to get you to your 10k race – and beyond.
- straightforward to use
- integrated pace counting and sleep tracking
- training plans for a range of goals
- good web app features
- Large, proprietary charger
- Can’t set own step goals
- Can’t save resting heart rate
- Lack of auto synch might irritate some people