Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

January 17, 2017

I’ve had my Garmin Forerunner 235 for 10 months now, and I realized I’ve never done a review on it!

In short, I absolutely love the 235 and highly recommend it for the runner who wants a few extra bells and whistles on their running GPS watch. It is super easy to set up, very user friendly, and has so many cool features that makes it fun to wear all day long.

I had the Garmin Forerunner 405 before, which I liked, but this was definitely worth the upgrade. My 405 was still working okay, but the backlight quit working, which made it impossible to read in the dark (which means 6 months out of the year here). I had to wait until I ran under a street lamp before I could read the display. The little band that holds the watch strap also broke, so I was having to use a rubber band to secure my watch strap. Not the end of the world, but it is sure nice to have a new watch that works well and has a ton of extra features.

The Garmin 235 does all of the basic things of a GPS watch including tracking: pace, distance, and time, but it also has a heart rate monitor built into the wrist, which attracted me to it in the first place. In addition, it does a lot of other things including:

  • counts steps and distance traveled.
  • tracks your sleep.
  • colored watch display.
  • tracks stats while biking.
  • you can download different watch faces.
  • a built-in accelerometer tracks pace when running inside.
  • data can be uploaded to Garmin Connect, and I can see stats such as elevation from a run or my cadence.

Things I especially love about the 235:

Vibration Alerts

The 235 vibrates every mile split, which is really nice when I’m running in noisy areas such as along a busy road or at a race when a lot of other people’s watches are beeping. It beeps in addition to the vibration alerts, so having both is definitely a perk.

Lighted Display in the Dark

I lift my watch to check my time when running in the dark, and the display automatically lights up. Genius!

Wrist-based Heart Rate

I had a chest strap that I wore with my previous Garmin (the Forerunner 405), but I didn’t love the chest strap. Oddly I often forgot I was wearing the chest strap a couple miles into the run, so it was probably the inconvenience of having to get the back of the monitor wet, lift up all my layers to put it on, and make sure it was reading my heart rate before starting my run. The Garmin 235 has a heart rate monitor built into the watch, so it reads my heart rate through my wrist, which is very convenient, but to be honest, it isn’t as accurate as the chest strap. It is accurate about 90% of the time. Sometimes I will notice my heart rate go really high at the beginning of a tempo workout (when it shouldn’t be that high yet), or even jump around during intervals. It seems pretty accurate on easy runs though. What I need to do is wear my chest strap at the same time to see how they compare.

Smart Notifications

If someone texts me or calls me, my watch with vibrate and let me know of the incoming text or call. (This feature can be turned off.) The first portion of the text appears on the face of my watch, which is nice. Or if someone is calling me, the incoming caller’s name appears on my watch, and I can answer the phone from my watch. This is especially nice if I am upstairs but my phone is downstairs. I don’t receive that may texts or calls throughout the day, so it isn’t annoying for me.

Predicted VDOT Score

I can also upload my data to Garmin Connect and see even more details about my run: elevation, cadence, and a map of my route. The watch even predicts my VDOT score, so I know what paces to be training at.



I can’t say enough great things about the 235. If you want even more in-depth details about this watch, check out the blog DC Rainmaker, who goes into a lot of detail about the Garmin Forerunner 230 and 235 in this post. (The Garmin 230 is the exact same watch, minus the wrist-based heart rate monitor.) (His blog is a great resource for any new techy fitness device you may be interested in buying.)

I’ll be back on Thursday with a food and workout diary. The temps are supposed to be well below zero this week, so pray I don’t freeze while running outside!

    1. I’ve also had the occasional irregularity with my heart rate with my 235, but it’s very occasional, with most of it being due to the known bug of the heart rate monitor sometimes picking up cadence when going downhill instead of heart rate (no idea why, but apparently it’s a thing). I’ve worn it together with my chest strap several times just to see how they compare, & they’re virtually identical, which has given me a lot more confidence in the numbers. I agree, not 100% perfect, but definitely the best Garmin I’ve owned yet!

      1. I hadn’t heard of the watch picking up on the cadence when running downhill. . . interesting. Good to know!

    1. I used DC Rainmaker to decide on a new watch when mine died during a marathon about a year ago. His reviews are so thorough and consistent that it makes it easy to compare one watch to another.

      Ultimately, I settled on the 230. I don’t really use many of the bells and whistles, but it was the cheapest Garmin I could find with a 12-16 hour battery life. One really fun feature I’ve been using lately is setting the run:walk alarm. I can set it to beep every minute or more for a walk portion, and same with the running one. It’s great on fartlek runs and I don’t have to look at my watch at all. I love the vibrate-beep alert the 230 has like you mentioned above. Are you on Strava? I really love the community aspect of that vs. the one on Garmin Connect.

      1. I am on Strava! I only recently started using it more consistently, so I’m not too sure what I’m doing with it yet. I forgot about the workout feature that will beep with the intervals you preset it for. I did that last spring, and it was so much better than looking at my watch all the time!

    1. great review! i got the garmin 35 for christmas. i considered the 235 but didn’t think i needed all the features…and i liked that the 35 is a little smaller, so it fits better on my small wrist. after using it for a few weeks, the only thing i wish this watch did was automatically light up in the dark.

      1. I didn’t even know the watch did this until this fall after having it all summer (since it is sunny all the time here in the summer). 😛

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