Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 230 – 5 Differences

Released at the same time, these two offerings from Garmin, are pretty high up on the spec sheets. How do they compare and what are the key differences between the Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 230.

The Forerunner 235 has Wrist Base HR Tracking

This is the biggest difference between these units. Using Garmin Elevate tech, three green LED’s shine a light at the capillaries in your wrist to calculate your pulse. Unlike the FR 230, there’s no need to put on a chest strap and connect it over ANT+, as long as you have the watch on your wrist, the FR235 will already be trying to collect HR metrics.

For either watch, it should be noted that the algorithm which calculates calories burned, has greater accuracy if HR data is inputted into the equation. Meaning if you want to closely measure your calorie expenditure, the FR235 is a more convenient way to do so. Collecting heart rate data on every run, really helps to add context around the speed and distance data you collect through GPS.

Garmin Forerunner 235 - HR graph

Heart Rate graph on FR 235

235 can track your pulse non-stop

If you’re going to wear the FR 235 beyond exercise, it can capture your heart rate around the clock; providing feedback on other vital signs such as resting pulse. The Forerunner 230 can’t do this, not even if you were to wear a chest strap all the time (Why would you want to do this?).

…Well you could, but it would involve being in exercise mode constantly to log your pulse. Not worth it as this would just suck up the battery life in hours as opposed to the 9 days of continuous HR tracking you can get on the Forerunner 235.

The data collected on continuous HR is presented in an easy to read graph on the colour display. A HR graph shows readings from the past 4 hours with colour coded signals to segment the 5 intensity zones specific to your settings.

Longer battery life on the FR 230

As you can imagine, the Garmin Elevate tech is going to eat into battery life, but it still delivers a respectable 9 days in standard watch mode, and up to 11 hours of exercise tracking when using GPS and HR.

Without using a chest strap, the Forerunner 230, delivers a much more enduring performance; up to 16 hours in exercise mode and an incredible 5 weeks in standard smartwatch mode.

20% difference in price

Heart Rate is the key differentiator on these two models but this has a huge impact on the price you pay. The Forerunner 230 retails at $250, some $70 less than the 235 at $330 (20% more expensive).

If you’re thinking of buying the FR230, there’s no point buying the bundle version with a chest strap for two reasons.

  1.  You could probably find an older Garmin ANT+ HR strap for under $50 dollars. Just connect that to the FR230
  2. The bundle FR230 has an RRP only $30 cheaper than the FR235. It would make more sense to pay a little extra for the convenience of wrist-based heart rate tracking.

And if you think the prices are little bit steep, you can always save a bit of cash going for an older model; the FR225 and FR220 are the respective older watches of the FR235 and F230. Check out my comparison of the FR225 vs FR220.

Plenty of colours to choose from

Both the FR 235 and 230 can be purchased in 1 of 3 colours; with different offerings for each. Going for the higher spec Forerunner 235, you can choose from Black & Grey, Frost Blue and Marsala; a Black and Red design not to different from the Forerunner 220.

Garmin Forerunner 235 watch designs

The FR 230 really ramps up the palette with bright colours in Force Yellow and Purple. There’s also a more discrete Black & White version.

Garmin Forerunner 230 - Colour range

Don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself to one colour scheme either. All the strap colours across the FR 630, 235 and 230 are compatible with all three watches, meaning you could say pop a Force Yellow strap onto a FR235 if you really wanted to. Changing a Garmin Watch strap only takes a few minutes.

Verdict: Garmin Forerunner 230 vs 235

Both Forerunners are strong releases and are spot on for tracking your running mileage as well as your lifestyle steps and sleep. When deciding between these two watches, consider how important heart rate tracking really is to your goals. If it’s not a priority, you’d be better off saving your cash and buying the cheaper FR230 without the bundle pack.

Buy a Garmin Forerunner 230/235

Garmin Forerunner 230

Garmin Forerunner 230 - Buy NowLinks to Amazon

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Garmin Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 235 - Buy NowLinks to Amazon

Buy Now

About Author

I'm a super keen injured runner with over 20 years experience in races and endurance training. Get in touch with me over Twitter, G+ on in the comments below.



    You are wrong, wrist based HR is 15% less accurate the.n Chest Strap based HR.

    For an experienced runner, FR 230 is better for this reason.

    • Hi Craig,

      Do you have the data at hand to support this? If you’ve got any comparisons I’d love to see them. Wrist based still offers much greater convenience, when I used to run more mileage, I hated wearing a chest strap, and would only wear it occasionally on key sessions – the wrist based tracking feels accurate enough but gives me the insight for every run.

      You’ve given me an idea for a post though, I’ll try and compare the two technologies – likely the new Vivoactive 3 vs an older model using chest heart rate monitor.


      • I’d personally love to see the difference for the same run on a 235 using the wrist hrm and with chest strap hrm (Granted you’d need 2 watches). If I can ditch the chest strap in place of the wrist arm then count me in but having seen a fair bit of data on strava of people I know using 235s with wrist hrm it’s far from being accurate..! 130bpm averages when setting a pb at park run..! I don’t think so!

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