One of my first posts on ShuffleRun was a review of why the Garmin FR 220 rocks. I’ve still got it to this day, although it gets slightly less usage than my Vivoactive which I use for biking.
With the Garmin Forerunner 225 announced this summer, I’ve compared the major differences between the new release and its predecessor.
Heart Rate sensor on the wrist.
When you see the likes of the Fitbit Charge HR, Apple Watch and TomTom Cardio Runner all offering wrist based HR monitoring, it’s a move Garmin had to make. TomTom have had it in the Cardio Runner for over a year!
The FR 225 is the first Garmin watch to come with this feature built into the watch. As with many watches before the older FR 220 can track your pulse via chest strap, which is great for accuracy but personally I find quite irritating to wear and often have to readjust as I’m running. With the HR sensor built into the 225, your chest is free to breathe and you can focus on the workout.
Rather than inventing their own HR sensor, the Forerunner 225 borrows technology from MIO Global; who’ve had some modest success with wrist based sensors like MIO Fuse and Alpha 2. Combining this with the GPS expertise of Garmin and you have yourself a pretty decent watch for running.
As with other wrist-based sensors, its recommended to wear the FR225 a couple of centimetres higher up on the wrist, this is to improve the sensors accuracy as it monitors the blood flowing through your wrist. There’s even a black ring on the back of the watch which acts as a light seal to ensure no ambient light affects your pulse reading.
Gauge display for HR zones
Taking full advantage of the colour display, the Forerunner 225 can use this HR data to display real-time feedback on the intensity of your workout. With 5 zones each with their own colour, it’s quite simple to gauge your workout and stay within a target zone.
- Warm-up zone. Grey. 50-59% of max heart rate.
- Easy zone. Blue. 60-69% of your max heart rate.
- Aerobic zone. Green. 70-79% of your max heart rate.
- Threshold zone. Orange. 80-89% of your max heart rate.
- Maximum zone. Red. 90% and above your max heart rate.
When you first set up the 225, Garmin will ask for your age to calculate your theoretical maximum heart rate. It uses this formula:
220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate
Putting in my age of 27, I get a theoretical maximum of 193BPM. The 5 intensity zones would then be worked out by Garmin a little like this.
- 50% = 97BPM
- 60% = 116 BPM
- 70% = 135BPM
- 80% = 154BPM
- 90% = 173BPM
Because HR correlates strongly with exercise intensity, it’s a metric worth tracking. It can give clues as to how your body is coping with your training load, both during and away from the workout. If you’ve ever come down with a bug, check your pulse and it’s likely to be faster than normal, even on an easy run.
With the HR sensor on the wrist, I think it encourages runners to track their pulse just as often as they track their pace through GPS. Whereas I might have worn a chest strap only on a threshold test, the Forerunner 225 makes it accessible on recovery runs, circuit training and everything in between.
For when you’re not running, Garmin have added in similar functionality as seen in their Vivo devices (Vivofit, Vivosmart and Vivoactive). The built in accelerometer can be used to count your steps throughout the day. Both watches can count your stride rate during a run, but it’s only the 225 which gives you this additional lifestyle tracking.
Unlike the Fitbit Charge HR which can do round the clock pulse tracking, the FR 225 only captures this info when in workout mode, that means no pulse data captured during the day to day.
Inactivity alerts too
Even if you’ve got a run under your belt, doesn’t mean you can sit on your ass all day; that’s what Garmin would have you believe with their inactivity tracker in the 225. I call it the “red bar of shame” and it tends to go off after an hour of non-movement. It’s ok, it disappears after a couple of minutes of walking. Even if you get plenty of steps in through your runs, it’s a polite reminder to shake off those legs before they seize up.
The accelerometer doubles up as a sleep tracker and can automatically record the duration you slept as well as how often you moved throughout the night. The graph which interprets your data on Garmin Connect is a little basic, but it might be of interest. Another feature which isn’t available on the Forerunner 220.
Longer battery life on Forerunner 220
Just a minor point, but the older Forerunner 220 gives you 6 weeks battery life in watch mode verses a shorter 4 weeks for the 225.
With round-the-clock activity tracking it’s understandable that the Forerunner 225 will be using battery juice faster than the older model. Though let’s be clear, if you make either watch last a couple of weeks, you’re not using the GPS features enough.
On the plus side, both GPS watches give you an equal 10 hours battery life during runs or workouts. It’s good to see the heart rate monitor on the 225 doesn’t impact the battery life performance.
The 225 launches in just one colour variation, a black and red design, which looks similar to the 220, though less red across the watch face and none in the strap. The 220 also appeared in a white/violet alternative which hasn’t made it into the FR 225 as of yet (A future release maybe?).
With the heart rate sensor built into the back, the Forerunner 225 is 35% heavier than the 220 on the wrist. In context it’s not that bad though when you think the chest strap of the 220 if used, adds an additional 50g into the mix, plus even more once it starts soaking up your sweat. Both models are considerably lighter than an Apple Watch.
As is often the case, the newer model 225 costs more than the older 220, with around £50 difference between the two heart rate tracking variants.
Garmin FR 220 – you could decide between picking a HR version of not, which currently stands at £159 vs £189
Garmin FR 225 – RRP is £239 which includes a heart rate monitor.
When is the 225 getting a release?
Checking out the Amazon, it looks like the latest Forerunner should be hitting the shelves from the 14th July. You’ll be able to get some summer usage of it before those long winter nights come in.
Any rumours of a Forerunner 625?
The 220 and 620 were both released at the same time back in 2013, and if only 1 model was to get wrist based heart rating monitoring, I would have expected it to be the higher spec 620 series. Should the 225 be a success, it’s quite likely that an FR 625 will appear with all the features of a Forerunner 620 plus the features new with the 225.
With no announcement yet, I reckon the 625 will be unveiled as their main product for the Christmas period.
Anything else both watches can do?
This versus article only really looks to cover the differences between the 220 and 225, however there is plenty which both watches offer to runners.
- Colour Display
- Live tracking. If you run with a phone, this feature can keep your family in the loop of your whereabouts by updating a map.
- Upload runs directly to the Garmin Connect app using the Bluetooth on your smartphone.
- Vibration Alerts. I’ve found these quite useful for setting up mile lap splits. They’re better at getting my attention over a noise I might miss.
- Personal records. The Garmin keeps a log of some of your best efforts like fastest mile, fastest 10k or longest run. Quite satisfying to see one of these trophies pop up at the end of your workout.
In my opinion, the Forerunner 225 is a great shout if you to take advantage of easily accessible heart rate tracking.
If you’re not bothered about tracking heart rate, but quite fancy a GPS watch which offers a step counter and sleep tracking, the Garmin Vivoactive is a better shout and gives you a watch with a more aesthetic design you can wear with something other than your running kit.