Best Garmin Forerunner? Buyers Guide on all 27 Watches

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Perhaps the best known GPS watch range for athletes, Garmin Forerunner releases are a popular choice with runners everywhere. They’re easy to use, accurate and a brand you can trust. Believe me, they’ve come a long way since the Forerunner 101 debuted in 2003.

I’ve listed the key features in all 27 releases to date. You may find it useful for comparing older models against the new as you can definitely save some money going for an older model if you just need a basic GPS watch for logging the miles. How many of these have you owned?

Quick links to each Forerunner release

10 | 15 | 25 | 35 | 50 | 60 | 70 | 101 | 110 | 201 | 210 | 220 | 225 | 230 | 235 | 301 | 310XT | 305 | 405 | 405CX | 410 | 610 | 620 | 630 | 735XT | 910XT | 920XT

Garmin Forerunner 35 (2016)

garmin-forerunner-35

Pitching somewhere between the budget Forerunner watches and the mid-tier, the announcement of the Forerunner 35 introduced wrist based heart rate tracking at its lowest price yet.

Worth a Read: Garmin Forerunner 35 vs Garmin Forerunner 25

Garmin Forerunner 735XT (2016)

garmin-forerunner-735xt

Possibly the ultimate triathlon watch, the 735XT is one of the most feature heavy (and expensive!) multi-sport Forerunner devices on the market. On wrist heart rate tracking has been added to the back of the watch and is spot on for running and cycling segments, though note for accurate swimming heart data, Garmin recommend the HRM-Swim accessory which can be purchased separately or bundled with the 735XT.

Garmin Forerunner 630 (2015)

Garmin Forerunner 630

Pitching itself at the high performance end, the FR 630 offers perhaps the widest range of features ever seen in a Forerunner. It contains all the metrics of the FR 620 but with the inclusion of advanced running dynamics which calculate the length of your stride, the difference in ground contact time between both feet and a ratio of vertical oscillation to stride length. Talk about technical! These advanced dynamics were previously available only in the 920XT, a popular multi-sport watch with triathletes.

Hook up to a heart rate monitor and you’ll receive additional metrics around Lactate Threshold and Stress Score; how much your heart rate fluctuates throughout the workout.

With just a few of the unique features listed above you can see this is one running watch for the serious data geeks out there. It may be the most expensive FR going, so if you’re not going to appreciate the extras and use them to assess your running technique, don’t throw away your money. You’ll be much better off getting a cheaper model to track your mileage.

Features

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Pacer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, VO2 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, Running Dynamics, connected features, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, pace alert, Connect IQ, Advanced running dynamics, Stress Score, Lactate threshold, Performance condition, Works with Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Forerunner 235 (2015)

garmin-forerunner-235

The second Forerunner release to have wrist-based heart rate tracking; the other being the FR 225. The big difference between these two is that the FR 235 can record your pulse continuously whether exercising, resting or sleeping (The 225 only captures this data during exercise).

Either way, This extra layer of heart data applied to every run helps to make calorie expenditure calculations more accurate than if you were to rely solely on distance. Measuring from the wrist using a green light which shines into your skin, it’s much more comfortable than having to wear a HR strap around the chest.

Features

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Wrist based heart rate monitoring, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, VO2 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, connected features, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, pace alert, Connect IQ, works with Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Forerunner 230 (2015)

garmin-forerunner-230

Think Forerunner 235 without the heart rate measurements taken from the wrist and you get the FR 230. If you’re content without this feature you could spare yourself up to $70 in cost. The 230 is essentially an upgrade of 2013’s FR220 adding in more of the lifestyle tracking features such as a sleep tracking, a step counter with an auto-goal which adjusts daily based on your recent performance. Also watch out for the move bar, which tells you off if you’ve been inactive for too long.

Worth a Read: Garmin Forerunner 230 vs 235

Features

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, VO2 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, Connected features, Step counter, Auto-goal, Move bar, Sleep monitoring, Pace alert, Connect IQ, works with Garmin Connect app

Garmin Forerunner 25 (2015)

garmin-forerunner-25

The Forerunner 25 pitches itself towards the value end of the market. The no frills running features are included like GPS tracking, auto-lap and virtual pacer. Step counting and hours slept are also tracked. It may not look a smart watch but don’t be fooled; the FR 25 can connect to the Garmin Connect app on a smartphone and wirelessly transfer your activity data to your profile.

Worth a Read: Garmin Forerunner 25 vs Forerunner 15

Features

Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Pacer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screen, accelerometer, connected features, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, works with Garmin Connect app

Garmin Forerunner 225 (2015)

garmin-forerunner-225
The first Forerunner release to feature heart-rate measurement from the wrist, the 225 lets you capture intensity on every run without needing to wear a chest-strap. It was only a matter of months until this device was eclipsed by the FR235, so you may be able to find this release at a cheaper price.

Worth a Read: Garmin Forerunner 225 vs 220. What’s new?

Features

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Wrist based heart rate monitoring, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, pace alert, Works with Garmin Connect app

Garmin Forerunner 920XT (2014)

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Popular with triathletes, this multi-sport variant in the Forerunner series, is an upgrade from 2012’s FR 910XT. It’s much more useable with the benefits of a colour touchscreen. With Connect IQ you can customise the watch more to show different clock faces or your collected data in a way you prefer.

The 920XT doesn’t really advance the swimming or cycling features versus the older 910XT but where there are big improvements are around the running dynamics. New features which aren’t available in the FR220/620 duo include stride length, ground contact time balance and vertical ratio; an assessment of how your stride length impacts vertical oscillation. If you want to optimise your cadence you can even use the built in metronome feature to give you a rhythm to stride to.

Features

Multi-sport (Swim, bike run), Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Pacer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, VO2 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, Running Dynamics, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, Pace alert, Connect IQ, Works with Garmin Connect app, pool swim metrics, open water swim metrics, stroke type identification, compatible with Vector

Garmin Forerunner 15 (2014)

garmin-forerunner-15

It hasn’t got Jack on the FR 920XT but it certainly ticks the box when it comes to price. Think of it as the bare necessities for measuring your runs with a little activity tracking thrown in for good measure.

The FR 15 remembers personal records, such as fastest 5k time and longest run. When you’re not running, the FR15 doubles up as an activity tracker and can prompt you with inactivity alerts if you’re caught sitting around for too long. You won’t be able to upload your efforts as seamlessly through a smartphone, but if you’re willing to upload via a data cable to a PC or Mac, you can still review your activity on Garmin Connect and even transfer over to Strava.

Worth a Read: Why the FR15 is a great running watch for beginners

Features

Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Pacer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screen, step counter, auto-goal, move bar, sleep monitoring, Works with Garmin Connect app

Garmin Forerunner 620 (2013)

Garmin Forerunner 620

Released at the same time as the FR220, the 620 had a few exclusive extras focused on improving running technique. Vertical Oscillation measured the bounciness of your stride whilst Ground Contact Time encouraged you to spend shorter intervals on the pavement and back into your next stride.

Connect with a heart rate monitor, and the device can give you estimates on your recovery time as well as VO2 max. It may have been surpassed by the FR 630, but on the plus you’ll find the 620 up to $150 cheaper.

Worth a Read: Improve Running Technique with the Forerunner 620

Features

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Pacer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, VO2 max estimate, Recovery advisor, Race predictor, Running Dynamics, Pace alert, Works with Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Forerunner 220 (2013)

Garmin Forerunner 220

One of the releases I actually owned! The FR 220 features Bluetooth compatibility so you can upload your runs straight through the Garmin Connect smartphone app. Strides per minute are logged during your workouts and can be analysed alongside heart rate when connected to a chest strap. Other useful features include a colour screen, vibration alerts and personal records which alert you post run when you’ve smashed it; like your fastest half-marathon time.

Worth a Read: 5 Reasons Why the Forerunner 220 Rocks!

Features:

Colour display, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, accelerometer, Pace alert, Automatic sync to Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Forerunner 10 (2012)

garmin-forerunner-10
A cheap entry level GPS running watch. If you have no interest in lifestyle tracking or advanced running metrics, the Forerunner 10 is a reliable choice.

Basic features like Auto-lap are often taken for granted, but are incredibly useful if you want to compare your mile splits throughout your run. Virtual pacer gives you an indication of whether you’re ahead or behind of your target pace.

For the FR10 you can choose whether to buy it with a 2.1 or 2.5cm screen. Also arrives in some pretty funky colours like pink, teal and orange.

Features:

7 activity history, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Virtual Pacer, Personal records, Calculates calories burned, customisable screens.

Garmin Forerunner 910XT (2012)

garmin-forerunner-910XT

Garmin really stepped up their triathlon watches with the 910XT release. With greater accuracy in the water, the 910XT delivered data on stroke identification, swim distance, stroke count and pool lengths. Containing many of the tech features which had been unveiled in other Forerunner models since the 310XT release, the 910XT came with vibration alerts and Virtual Racer to name a few.

Features:

Touchscreen, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Personal records, Virtual Racer, Virtual Partner, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, advanced workouts, Pace alert, pool swim metrics, open water swim metrics, stroke type identification, compatible with Vector, multiple bike profiles.

Garmin Forerunner 70 (2011)

garmin-forerunner-70
Following the FR50 and 60, the Forerunner 70 is another of Garmin’s non-GPS units. There’s no real new features to the lineup other than the more accurate calorie algorithm which first featured on 2009’s 405CX. Needs a foot pod to track distance and speed metrics.

Features:

100 lap/20 hour history, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Heart Rate monitor included, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, Pace alert, Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac

Garmin Forerunner 610 (2011)

garmin-forerunner-610

The first touchscreen watch in the Forerunner series, the FR610 could even be used with running gloves on. The introduction of vibration alerts were especially useful to runners who exercise to music, as mile splits and heart rate feedback were instantly made aware of with a buzz to the wrist.

For a little extra competition, Virtual Racer allowed a user to download their previous bests or Garmin Connect course records onto the watch, giving you the info you need to go for a record.

Run/Walk alerts also made its debut on the FR 610, allowing fairer measurement of a form of fartlek training which is great for building fitness.

Features:

1000 lap history, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Virtual Partner, Virtual Racer, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, Pace alert, Time/Distance Alert, Interval training, Advanced workouts, Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac

Garmin Forerunner 410 (2010)

garmin-forerunner-410

The bezel design made a comeback with the FR 410, allowing greater reliability in rain and sweaty conditions. Greater control was added to the workout screen, giving users up to 30 different types of data to display across three training pages.

Also included was the ability to guide you back to your activity starting point; handy if you’ve got a little lost whilst exploring.

Features:

1000 lap history, Auto Lap, Courses, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, Pace alert, Time/Distance Alert, Interval training, Advanced workouts, Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac

Garmin Forerunner 210 (2010)

garmin-forerunner-210

Maintaining the no-nonsense GPS watch ethos of the FR110, the FR210 did allow some extra heart rate feedback to be sent to user mid-session as alerts notify if you were above or below one of the 5 training intensity zones.

Uploading data to Garmin Connect when using an optional foot pod allowed you to see cadence (steps per minute) data for the first time.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Auto Lap, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, Interval training, Foot Pod compatible.

Garmin Forerunner 110 (2010)

garmin-forerunner-110

A budget Forerunner which still delivered the essentials. No brand new features but the FR 110 did included improved HotFix GPS signal as seen in the 310XT. ANT+ technology was available for the FR110 but was restricted to only heart rate monitor usage.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Auto Lap, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT (2009)

garmin-forerunner-310XT

Garmin’s first proper triathlon watch. Advertising it as a GPS Multi-sport watch for land and water, the 310XT was fit for running, cycling and swimming. A design which could easily be moved from wrist to bike mount, the 310XT was a popular model with racing triathletes who needed a quick release to save time.

HotFix was featured for the first time in the Forerunner range, helping to speed up acquisition of GPS signal as well as the ability to maintain signal when in weak spots. The 310XT couldn’t use GPS to accurately measure swimming distance, however it does record swimming time and estimate swimming speed whether open-water or pool swimming. Garmin’s latest technology,

Using ANT technology, the 310XT could connect with heart rate monitors, foot pods, cycling cadence centres and USB sticks for automatic data uploading.

Features:

Multi-Sport (Swim, Bike, Run), Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Virtual Partner, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, Pace alert, compatible with Vector, Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac.

Garmin Forerunner 405CX (2009)

cheap Garmin Forerunner 405CX

Following on from the popular FR 405, Garmin made subtle tweaks with the CX. A new calorie expenditure algorithm was added to the watch which factored in heart rate data. The benefit was a more accurate estimate of calories burned during aerobic activity.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Virtual Partner, Heart Rate monitor (optional), heart rate based calorie computation, Interval training, Advanced workouts, customisable screen, Pace Alerts, Time/Distance Alerts, Foot pod compatible, Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac.

Garmin Forerunner 60 (2009)

garmin-forerunner-60

An upgraded version of the Forerunner 50, Garmin continued their line of running watches without GPS. The big change between the last version was the inclusion of the ANT USB stick to transfer data automatically.

There were additional features such as the Virtual Partner, Auto Pause and Time/Distance Alerts which weren’t on the FR 50 but included on the FR60.

With a coin cell battery inside (FR 50, 60 and 70) a big advantage is the 1 year long battery life versus other Forerunners which typically have weeks.

Features:

100 lap/20 hour history, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Heart Rate monitor included, Heart rate based calorie computation, calculates calories burned, customisable screens, Pace alert, Time/Distance Alert, Foot Pod (optional bundle), Wirelessly sync via PC/Mac

Garmin Forerunner 405 (2008)

garmin-forerunner-405

This is the oldest FR which I used to wear regularly for my training. A fresh, sleeker design with a sensitive touch bezel; it was quite natural to select options or scroll through workout history without pressing any buttons. The design came with an upgraded battery life of up to 2 weeks, allowing it to be worn outside of exercise as a standard wrist-watch.

A huge plus of the 405 was that it could automatically sync workout data to a PC or Mac as soon as it was in range. All it needed was the ANT USB stick to be plugged in.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Interval training, customisable screen, Pace Alerts, Time/Distance Alerts, Foot pod compatible

Garmin Forerunner 50 (2007)

garmin-forerunner-50
The first Forerunner to released without a GPS chip inside would mean a different way was needed to collect exercise metrics. With ANT+ connectivity as seen in the FR 305, the FR 50 could connect to a heart rate monitor to collect exercise intensity data. To work out distance, a Foot Pod tied within the shoe laces would also need to be paired up via ANT+.

The ANT USB stick also debuted, allowing athletes to upload their exercise data without plugging the watch into a Mac or PC.

If you ran often on the treadmill or just indoors, the FR 50 would have some advantages over a GPS device. For the majority of runners who wanted to track distance accurately, this is one Garmin that would be worth a miss.

Features:

100 lap history, Auto Lap, Pace Alert, Interval Training, Heart Rate monitor (optional), Foot Pod compatible.

Garmin Forerunner 305 (2006)

garmin-forerunner-305

A fresher design, Garmin ditch the velcro strap in their 205/305 duo to allow an antenna to wrap around the wrist for improved GPS signal. The Forerunner 305 was the only of the two devices to be compatible with a heart rate monitor thanks to its ANT+ connectivity, meaning features such as Heart Rate alerts could be used to help you workout at a desired intensity.

ANT+ could be used for extra features to give it the 1-UP against the 205; the 305 could be connected to a Foot Pod to give greater estimations of indoor distance ran where GPS signal would be weak. For cyclists, the 305 could also be connected to a GSC 10 bike sensor to calculate peddling cadence on a ride.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Multi-Sport mode, Virtual Partner, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Pace Alert, Time/Distance Alerts, Interval Training, Advanced Workouts, Customisable Screen, Foot Pod compatible.

 

Garmin Forerunner 205 (2006)

garmin-forerunner-205

The 205 though inferior to the 305, still arrived with some nice additions to older Forerunner models. Improved GPS signal thanks to a new strap design, meant less time waiting for a satellite to lock-on to your position. The new courses feature allowed athletes to compare their workouts against previous performances on the same route.

And finally, Mac users were now able to transfer their exercise data off the watch, so they could store it offline.

Features:

GPS, 1000 lap history, Multi-Sport mode, Virtual Partner, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Pace Alert, Time/Distance Alerts, Interval Training, Advanced Workouts, Customisable Screen.

Garmin Forerunner 301 (2005)

garmin-forerunner-301
With the FR 301, the ability to collect heart rate data opened a whole host of new features compared to older models. Heart Rate was collected through a HRM chest strap and over time the 301 could AutoLearn a users heart zones. This meant the 301 could got a better understanding of which intensity band your workout was in, without calculating off old data. With so many extra metrics on board, the FR301 screen was the first to automatically scroll through your values so the user could see more information.

Heart rate intensity can vary by activity, so the 301 also introduced a multi-sport mode where unique profiles were created for running, biking and another sport.

Users could also create advanced workouts which targeted being at a set heart rate for a desired period of time; the 301 could also alert a user if their heart rate was above or below their target range.

Features:

GPS, 5000 lap history, Heart Rate monitor (included), Multi-Sport mode, Virtual Partner, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Pace Alert, Time/Distance Alerts, Interval Training, Customisable Screen.

Garmin Forerunner 201 (2003)

garmin-forerunner-201

With all the features of the Forerunner 101, the key benefit to this release was the change to a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It didn’t increase the battery life within the device, but did mean you would save cash on having to fork out for new batteries repeatedly. This change helped to shave off half a centimetre in thickness compared to the 101.

With a new desktop charger cable, data collected during workouts could be transferred to a PC. Notice there’s no Mac support as of yet.

Features:

GPS, 5000 lap history, Virtual Partner, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Pace Alert, Time/Distance Alerts, Interval Training, Customisable Screen. Upload to PC.

Garmin Forerunner 101 (2003)

garmin-forerunner-101

The original Forerunner release. It was so big, you could fit two AAA batteries inside; a far cry from the wearables we see today with coin-cell or rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The type of the device you would turn-off when not using it; again very different from the Forerunner’s today with their always-on movement tracking or continuous heart rate.

The 101 introduced the Virtual Partner, a digital stick man to help you identify how much you’re ahead or behind of your target pace. Auto-Pause would automatically stop the timer if it detected no GPS movement; ideal if you’re waiting for the traffic lights to go red. With a basic map of your activity viewable from the device screen, you could also use it to find your away to an existing way-point. Pretty handy if you can’t remember how to get back to where you started your activity.

Though the watch is on a par with many features found in newer models including the Forerunner 10, the GPS receiver chip will tend to be weaker in these older models, meaning you could spend longer waiting for signal before you start your run.

Features:

GPS, 5000 lap history, Auto Lap, Auto Pause, Pace Alert, Time/Distance Alerts, Interval Training, Customisable Screen.

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