Almost identical to the Garmin Forerunner 220, the Forerunner 225 spots one little colossal change: A wrist-strap heart rate monitor. In this Garmin Forerunner 225 review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this watch and more.
For the first time ever, the GPS giant (Garmin) has abandoned the chest strap in favor of optical heart rate sensors to power its collection of bpm-based training features on Garmin Forerunner 225.
Tracking heart rate no longer requires a chest strap. Instead, the Garmin Forerunner 225 makes use of an optical light sensor built into the underneath the watch which is very similar to what’s found on various Fitbits and Apple Watches with one great exception: a much better accuracy during a workout.
However, it’s still worth noting that a wrist-based heart rate monitor can never be as accurate as a chest strap, I don’t think that’s possible. The Forerunner 225 is excellent for defining exertion level (which is enough for most runners out there). But if you want the highest level of accuracy, you have to stick with a chest strap.
Typically, some people with darker skin had problems with the heart rate sensor tech. The technology functions by shining a light via your skin to figure out your blood pumping speed. In some cases, dark skin interferes with this, but it’s not really universal and differs from one person to the other.
Enter the Garmin Forerunner 225: This is basically the first Garmin sports watch to feature heart rate tracking from the wrist, as I mentioned earlier. However, Garmin is actually late to this party and it’s a big exit for a company that has always supported ECG chest straps’ accuracy. But now that it’s finally here, is Garmin just trying to play catch-up with the Forerunner 225 or is this really the best running watch on the market?
Let’s find out on this post.
Garmin Forerunner 225 Review | Design & Build
Aside from the Vivoactive, Garmin has always made wristwatches that resemble sports watches, and the Forerunner 225 is no exception. It has a very solid resemblance to the Forerunner 620 and 220.
The Forerunner 225 looks exactly like one of those older models with an optical heart rate sensor on the inside. Garmin has also trapped to a reliable palette of muted colors (in this example black) with subtle color sparks (not blue this time, but red), so it happily fits with both work suit and tracksuit alike.
A bunch of other successful design from the older Garmin smartwatches is also there. You get the same round face watch and side button controls, and the soft silicon band that makes it super comfortable to put on for an extended period of time. On the weakness, Garmin hasn’t trashed the annoying habit of building a unique charging support which is only compatible with this wristwatch model. Misplace it and you’re in trouble.
Aside from that complaints, the entire thing feels strong and built to endure some maltreatment. For example, the pins holding the straps in place are basically more like mini screws.
Generally, Forerunner 225 is a chunkier monster than its antecedents. The face of the smartwatch is thicker and larger while the strap is wider and a bit heavier, although not enough for most people to worry about.
At 54g the Garmin Forerunner 225 favorably compares with some other sports watches like Polar V800 that weighs 81g without in-built Optical Heart Rate (OHR). It’s actually more compact side by side than other OHR sensor wristwatches such as the Adidas SmartRun and the TomTom Cardio Runner.
Furthermore, it has a sharp color LCD display that is also easy to read on the move, even though the Forerunner 225 lacks the touchscreen skills we love on the Forerunner 620. The screen actually comes into its own once you activate the color-coded heart-rate zone training, and apart from that, the bright colors make it extremely easy to see as you are hitting the perfect beat.
When the Forerunner 225 is flipped over, you’ll see the greatest difference. The Optical Heart Rate Sensor sits subtly in the middle of a raised silicon ring which blocks light leaking in and affecting the heart rate tracking’s accuracy. However, this can be a bit of a worry as it does give your wrist a temporary ring-shaped mark.
Garmin Forerunner 225 GPS Heart Rate Monitor Watch Review
With the Garmin Forerunner 225 wrist-based heart rate zone training function, it’s pretty easy to separate your threshold sessions from your maximum training runs, and your recovery runs from your endurance base builders. It makes use of color coding on the LCD display of the watch for you to know what zone you’re running in real-time, as well as your current bpm rate, which changes as you shift up and down via the 5 different heart rate zones. Also, the watch beeps and vibrates to notify you when you’ve strayed off, or hit the correct beats per minute.
Additionally, you can equally make use of Garmin Connect to create nearly any kind of custom heart rate interval session and the smartwatch beeps and vibrates to notify you when you are working at the correct bpm.
The Garmin Connect online tools can also be used to create nearly any kind of custom heart rate (HR) interval session, including combined or single zone sessions. And transferring them to the device is clear-cut either wirelessly or through USB. However, there were a few syncing problems in our tests but mostly where syncing took a bit longer than we’d expect.
Furthermore, each of the sessions you create can pair one of the 5 heart rate zones:
- Aerobic Threshold
- Active Recovery
- Sub Lactate Threshold
- Lactate Anaerobic Threshold
With distance or time parameters for an enormously personalized training session.
For those that need a small help, there are equally expertly designed heart rate based training packages which can be pretty much tailored to your specific needs, adding a few additional details like how often you can run, your current fitness levels, and how long you’ll have to train. All these training plans can be packed onto the wristwatch itself, allowing you to see the things you need to carry out each day without having to fire up the app or go back online.
Moreover, when it comes to the Forerunner 225’s heart rate tracking accuracy, there were quite momentous differences up against the likes of Polar M400 that make use of a standard ECG chest strap.
The 225 has heart rate smarts for when you aren’t running as well. Simply scroll to the HR display if at any point in time you want to figure out your current heart rate. That will trigger the heart rate sensor that otherwise sits idle for it to save battery life. However, it’s quite unfortunate that the wristwatch does not save the reading as you do this. Additionally, having the ability to chart your progress against goals such as lowering your resting heart rate would indeed be a great welcome feature.
One other downside is that if you want heart rate zones which are specific to you instead of the pre-loaded default heart rate zones that work-off the often used formula 220 – Garmin requires you to manually change the information. Instead of the smartwatch studying how your heart rate might be enhancing with your training and automatically updating, you need to adjust your maximum heart rate and resting manually for the zones to be correct to your current fitness levels.
For instance, if you reach a new maximum heart-rate on an all-out 5km run, we’d definitely love the Garmin Forerunner 225 to register that data and also adjust your heart rate zones accordingly. But it doesn’t do that.
Garmin Forerunner 225 | Running
Over the past few months, Garmin has certainly made its smartwatches a lot easier to use. The information is clearly displayed – screens are easier to customize and the myriad functions navigation is now much easier for the less initiated.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 maintains this trend. The company typically wants it to be a simple-to-use device for mentoring you on a new personal level. Let’s say it’s the newbies’ best-running buddy, and it primarily achieves that.
Ideally, if you’re new to Garmin and its watches, it’ll take a little time before you get familiar with the watch’s interface. Another thing I love about the 225 model is that you can get used to it without using the manual. All the 5 side button controls have clear jobs, making it easy and straightforward to navigate the different menus and pretty easy to scroll via your important data screens mid-run.
While Forerunner 225 does not have the running dynamics of the Forerunner 620 and the VO2 Max and also insights you’ll find on the likes of Polar V800, it boasts of a solid set of running features with a lot to help any potential amateur advance.
In addition to the usual time, pace, speed, distance, heart rate and calories stats that can be seen in real time, you also get cadence stats post run.
Furthermore, there’s equally a strong intervals tool which allows you to follow sessions created on the companion web tools, Garmin Connect, merging metrics such as intensity, distance, pace, heart rate, and time. However, there are some grumbles with this feature.
Another exciting thing is that the Forerunner 225 can be configured to vibrate and beep when you’ve finished an interval. This works perfectly well when you’re testing it for time-based segments but the alerts are less clear for GPS-based distance intervals – always stopping before getting to the distance you choose with your first interval.
That’s not all, another great plus is the speed with which the smartwatch captures GPS. While you may be required to wait longer for few events, you often should have a lock within 45-seconds. It equally brings activity and sleeps tracking into the show, making this timepiece a much more competent all-rounder.
The total of your current step is shown on the home screen together with a variety of other useful stats such as current heart rate, the number of calories you’ve burned that day, and the distance you’ve covered.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 adjusts your daily steps goal automatically based on your recent activity, an excellent motivational tool that most of the activity trackers on the market lacks. You can equally set the wristwatch to give you a mild vibrating reminder if you’ve been inactive for too long.
Finally, the onboard accelerometer which makes the activity tracking possible equally allows you to track your indoor runs if you need to take to the treadmill.
Forerunner 225 Review | Sleep tracking
The Forerunner 225’s sleep tracking feature works exactly like the Vivoactive. It breaks down your shut-eye into a deep sleep, light sleep, and awake, although you’re required to sync it to a desktop or your smartphone to see the stats in order to view any of this detail.
At this point, you’ll equally get access to a thorough breakdown of your movement throughout the night. It’s a cool plus to the 225 model that you might not necessarily expect in a running watch but the information is slightly limited to be really useful.
Garmin Forerunner 225 | Stats & Apps
Garmin Forerunner 225 works together with smartphone apps and the recently rebranded Garmin Connect online platform to allow you to do a huge variety of things such as connect with other runners through the Garmin community, get more hold on your post-run data, create and manage training packages, earn badges or transfer your data from other Garmin tracking tools into one place.
Another good thing about Garmin Connect is its ability to sync your Garmin run data with other apps such as Endomondo Strava. By connecting these apps to your Garmin account, any runs you log equally register on those platforms to enable you to get the best of both worlds.
Also, while Garmin has its own segments feature which allows you to race certain routes virtually against other runners, it’s basically not as established as Strava so it’s good to still be able to rival on Strava while making use of the 225.
Aside from that, Connect has its shortcomings too, for instance how it shows your heart rate zone data from any run is regrettably poor compared to a device like Polar Flow that supplies you information such as the total number of minutes you’ve spent in every zone. Since its relaunch, however, the platform has been evolving constantly and Garmin’s efforts to upgrade it are quite apparent. Even though it’s by no means the most user-friendly or the best online partner device but it’s gradually improving.
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But we also have some good news as well, as you can easily update the Forerunner 225 model using Garmin Express permitting for constant software upgrades, new features, and tweaks which mean you get a better smartwatch every time Garmin discovers a better way of doing things.
Talking about Forerunner 225’s battery life, the inclusion of a heart-rate monitor, along with all-day tracking, did not significantly affect the battery life of Garmin Forerunner 225. According to Garmin, “the watch will last for up to 10-hours in GPS mode with an enabled heart-rate monitor.
Forerunner 225 | Additional Features
Once your forerunner 225 is paired with your smartphone through Bluetooth LE, the Live Tracking feature can be used to promptly share details of your run in real-time with your family and friends through social media wherever they’re located in the world. It works exactly like any marathon race tracker that allows people to get a link to monitor your run via a live-tracking map.
However, one visible omission on the Forerunner 225 is the running dynamics which we loved on the 625 model. Once you’ve synced with Garmin Connect, you can get post-run cadence data, but there’s no foot strike rate info shown on the smartwatch itself.
Here’s a short video review of the Forerunner 225: