We put Garmin's new running watch with heart rate monitoring through its paces

- Sep 15, 2017-

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the company's latest running watch with wrist-based heart rate monitoring built in. Coming less than a year after the Forerunner 225, it may seem like a simple incremental update.

But under-the-hood, Garmin has made big changes, cutting out Mio's tried and tested heart rate sensor in favour of its own tech.

It's a big step and risky one. And if you've read our Garmin Vivosmart HR review you'll know that we found substantial issues with its optical technology. But has it fixed them for the Forerunner 235? You'll have to read on to find out.

Visually, the Forerunner 235's design isn't any kind of departure from Garmin's range of running watches, but it's still a fine looking device. We tested the version with the teal strap, which looks superb, and we were perfectly happy wearing it out and about. Sure, it might look a little silly with a suit, but it's actually one of the least offensive specialist sports watches out there.

It's light, too. Weighing just 42g it's easy to strap on and forget about, and was a welcome relief from other Garmin sports watches, especially the ridiculous Fenix 3 that we tested it against. If there's a downside to the Forerunner's svelte weight it feels a tad plasticky and flimsy, but that shouldn't put anyone off buying.

The Forerunner 235 boasts a 1.23-inch colour LCD screen with a resolution of 215 x 180 pixels. It's not winning any awards for visual prowess, but it does the job of displaying the time (it's always on so works as a proper watch) and stats such as running distance, time and pace and heart rate zones, where it uses the colour screen to best effect.

The strap is rubber with plenty of holes for adjustment, but the strap can be a tad annoying. The loop that tucks in the excess strap can slip back towards the buckle, leaving you with a flappy bit of rubber, which needs some adjustment every time you put it on.

That's not the only irritating quirk of the design. The start run button is positioned towards the top left and we found it snagged when putting on jackets and coats, inadvertently starting exercise sessions, which we'd then have to manually discard. We're not sure why it's such an issue with the 235, as it's not something that we've found with any of Garmin's other Forerunners. Perhaps it's a symptom of mid-winter wear.

There's no built in memory so you can't add your own music to finally leave your smartphone at home, and that's still the biggest plus for the TomTom Spark.

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