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The Garmin Forerunner 225 is the first Garmin watch to feature optical pulse measurement. But while it includes this fairly important new feature, it's not all that new, as Garmin has developed this 225 over the previous model, the successful Forerunner 220. Not only is the sensor the only new feature, Garmin has also incorporated the activity monitor as one of its main features.
Below I will tell you all the details of the watch and my impressions throughout these weeks of use (and sometimes abuse) of the 225.
Before I start I always like to clarify the origin of the devices I test. Sometimes I buy them directly from the store so that I can offer the test as soon as possible, but this time I have to thank Garmin for sending the watch for the review. Once the review is completed, I will send it back. In other words, Garmin does not give anything away in exchange for a positive or "not negative" opinion of one of its products. I perform the tests from a completely independent point of view without any pressure from the manufacturer.
Remember that if you want to show your gratitude for the tests I perform and want to help support the site, you can buy the watch through the links I provideThat way I get a small commission for each watch, which is what allows this website to continue and covers some of the work I do.
Now that that's all clear, let's get on with the test. The good, the less good and the bad of the Garmin Forerunner 225.
The packaging of the Garmin 225 is much more striking than the old 220, and that is that it has changed the black box to a blood red one. Could it be because the new 225 now reads our bloodstream?
The design, however, remains fairly unchanged in terms of content, but the packaging has been reduced in depth, which is normal given that a chest strap pulse sensor will not be included in this case.
And in the same way on the opposite side of the case we have three examples of the watch face, but now we have both the new heart rate zone display and the activity monitor, something that Forerunner 220 didn't have.
This unpacking promises to be quite fast, because except for the user's manual and quick guides in many languages, you will only find the watch together with the synchronization and charging cable. And you will only need these last two, because Garmin could perfectly save that range of manuals worthy of Locomy, and replace it with a card with a link to this test... if I explain everything here!
The most interesting part of the clock is not in the front, but in the back, in the optical pulse sensor. The placement of the green LEDs and the sensor in the centre is exactly the same as in all other Mio devices, as well as TomTom Cardio. On the sides we find the connection pins for the cable. And yes, you're right, the connector is brand new.
Unlike other products with this type of sensor, Garmin has added a rubber "bumper" to the sensor area that will help block light from entering the sensor reading area to ensure accurate data at all times.
The button layout remains the same. On the right side, the red start and pause button stands out. Below it, the button for marking laps. These are their functions while you are training, since when you are not, they will serve to enter and exit the menus, respectively.
This is the new clip, both because of the location of the connections to the watch, and because it is now slightly wider (to accommodate the optical pulse sensor). This clip will also serve to connect the watch to the computer, which you can use to synchronize activities (although it will always be more convenient via Bluetooth with your mobile phone) or to update the software of the same.
The watch is fully secured, so you can leave it hanging while it is charging, which will not fall off.
The Garmin 225 has put on a little weight compared to its predecessor, and now weighs 54 grams (instead of the 40 grams of the 220). The thickness has also increased by 4 mm, although in real figures it will be less, as when the watch is placed on the wrist the rubber ring collapses.
Training with the Garmin 225
When it comes to training and basic functions, the Garmin Forerunner 225 is exactly the same as the Garmin Forerunner 220Well, not exactly, but a 99%. The remaining 1% is the new heart rate zone display (which I will discuss later in this section).
Like the 220, in the 225 we will only find one sport profile, which is the running one. There is no possibility to have a cycling, walking, hiking or gym profile. Of course, you can still use the watch for these types of activities without any problem, but you cannot configure the profile independently so that, depending on the sport you are practicing, you can configure the screens in one way or another.
You can change the pace view to speed, for example, for when you ride your bike, but all you have to remember is that when you synchronise your activity, you have to change the type of sport you've been doing (directly in Garmin Connect). Not only can you keep your workouts neatly organized, but most importantly, your time and pace records won't be crushed the day you decide to go for a bike ride. Then you'll have to resend the records from Garmin Connect to the clock, to reset those details.
Starting the training activity is very simple, just press the big red activity button, and just like its brother, the 220, it will start the search for satellites and sensors, which in the case of the 225 will be to find your pulse thanks to the optical sensor. If the watch is properly adjusted on the wrist, you will find the pulse quickly (a matter of seconds, normally in less than 15s you are ready to run), and you'll know that everything is in order because the satellite search line will already be complete and in green, and the satellite and pulse icons will have stopped blinking.
In keeping with the general tone of the clock it was designed to keep, the Garmin 225 still maintains two data displays that can be customized with up to three data per display. This means you can choose to see one, two or three different values on the display. The fewer values you show, the larger the display will look (I mean for those of you who see less than a plaster cat).
These are the data fields we can select in the Garmin FR225 (again, the same as in the Garmin FR220):[table id=77 /]
In the "old" 220 we had a screen that could be turned on or off, which showed the heart rate and which zone of the heart rate we were in, depending on how you had previously configured it. This last data was indicated in a value with decimals, which, without being complicated to understand, did not offer a very logical representation either. Garmin still maintains this screen, but has also added a much more aesthetic one, in which we still have the absolute value of the heart rate, but it is located within a dial that represents which zone we are in and how much we are pushing the machine. Think of this screen as the rev counter of your car (with the difference that you only have one gear).
Other configurations are also available:
- Alerts:Heart rate, running/walking or rhythm alerts
- Auto LapAuto lap: You can turn the auto lap on or off (i.e. have a lap marked automatically), as well as the distance you want it to be marked. And regardless of how you set it up, if you press the lap button at any time during your workout or race you will mark a lap manually.
- Auto PauseStop: Do you want the clock to stop the activity when you stop at a traffic light? This is what this option allows you to do, where you can also define the minimum pace to stop it.
- Automatic scrollingTo switch automatically between the different data screens, the function can be activated or deactivated.
- Waiting timeTime: The time the clock spends in the race mode waiting for you to hit the start button. It can be set to normal (5 minutes) or extended (25 minutes) mode. This feature is especially useful when you are on the starting line of a race and the race is delayed.
Well, once you know how you can customize your watch and the different types of settings you can make, it's time to get down to business and get training. In addition to having the ability to go out and run wild, you can also create your own workouts (or those set by your trainer) from Garmin Connect, and then pair them with the watch both via data cable and wirelessly via Bluetooth. This is an option found on models from the Garmin mid-range upwards.
These trainings can be saved as recurrent sessions (Monday training, 3×5 series, for example) that you will find in the menu "my training sessions".
Or as individual sessions directly to the calendar, which you will find in the training schedule, each on its corresponding day.
The other way to create a workout is directly through the clock, where you can quickly set an interval session, in which you can set a warm-up time, the work and rest section (along with repetitions) and the cool-down period. What you cannot do on the clock is set the goals for each of them (i.e. your interval should be between 3:45-4:00 min/km or 155-170 ppm). This requires a workout created from the computer.
When you are doing your workout, an additional data screen will be added where you will have information about what phase you are in and your goal for that phase, if you have set it.
This way the clock will guide you through each phase of your training, showing you the time or distance left to finish the phase along with the current pace. It will also tell you what to do next and, if it is a succession of intervals, which one you are in.
Another highlight is that the Garmin Forerunner 225 has an internal accelerometer. Its main use will be to provide us with cadence data when running, but it will also serve to provide pace and distance data when no GPS signal is available, either because you're doing a treadmill workout or because you're running in an area without GPS coverage (a tunnel, for example).
Usually the rhythms and distances recorded through the accelerometer are quite accurate, as long as you run at a steady pace and similar to how you run on the street. But if you get on the treadmill to do interval work, it's much more complicated for the clock to be able to nail the rhythm you're running at, because it's much more variable.
Optical heart rate sensor
The Garmin Forerunner 225 debuts in the Garmin range as the first watch with an optical pulse sensor, but pulse measurement from the wrist is not new - it's been around for several years now, ever since Mio launched its first ALPHA model via the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform (you can read all about optical pulse measurement on this post).
The FR225 incorporates a sensor of this brand, the same one that we can see in Mio LINK as in the TomTom CardioAnd that's a reason to rest assured, because Garmin has not (yet) decided to create its own technology, but has chosen the simplest path and licensed this technology through Mio. So they have a fully tested sensor with reliable results known throughout the industry.
The only thing I can point out about the 225 is that Garmin has decided to include a rubber ring around the sensor, to ensure that the light cannot enter the reading point. This rubber ring can also be removed and replaced, in case it is damaged or wears out over time, and you can buy a replacement through Garmin.
You may wonder what happens in the winter, if you want to run with your watch on your clothes. The Garmin 225 also has ANT+ connectivity, so it still has the ability to connect to an external pulse sensor, in which case you could turn off the optical sensor (to save battery power) and pair your traditional pulse sensor.
But let's move on to the analysis of the heart rate data, which is what interests us most. In the weeks I've been testing Forerunner 225 specifically I've compared the data with other devices and sensors, in order to validate the final data obtained. These sensors have been Mio LINK (connected to a Garmin Fenix 3) and a traditional Suunto chest strap sensor.
With the Suunto sensor I can verify the data compared to a sensor that is, on a retail technology level, very reliable (although not up to medical grade). And by comparing it to the Mio LINK we will confirm that Garmin has not broken anything when integrating the sensor with the watch itself.
In this first example training I did two series of continuous running with four specific blocks of work of twins and quads, which include jumps. The line that interests us is the red one, which is the one obtained with the Garmin 225. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
The Garmin FR225 has a somewhat complicated start, and until I warm up it doesn't register the pulse correctly, but from the 3rd minute it already overlaps perfectly with the other two charts.
This is something I've seen quite often in all my workouts, probably due to the configuration of the algorithm by Garmin. Most of the time he has two minutes where he has a little more trouble getting in tune, but from there on the operation has been perfect.
This is the most difficult part to measure, not only because of the continuous rise and fall of the heart rate, which is the most demanding situation for the pulse sensors, but also because as they contain jumps, the sensors will move (not only the optical sensors on both wrists, but also on the chest), so it is not easy to make a comparison and determine which gives us the correct data.
Even so, and except for slight discrepancies of no great importance (the zoom level is quite high, there can be a variation of 1 or 2 pulses in the same second), the three graphs are quite aligned, although the one that suffers most is the Suunto chest sensor (blue line), which is precisely the one on the chest and has more facility to move during these high-impact exercises.
This is the second part of the same training. Here we find a small discrepancy from FR225, which before starting with the jump block has a wrong reading, creating a peak that neither of the other two sensors have registered. But in the jump block itself it is, again, the Suunto sensor that suffers the most. The sensors of the 225 and the Mio Link are quite close.
This is followed by continuous career training.
In the final part of the training, everything still looks just as good in the comparison between the three charts.
Third example training: Apart from the start (which as you can see is a common trend) where there have been some differences between the three sensors, during the rest of the activity the three graphs have overlapped perfectly.
By enlarging this same graph you can appreciate much better how in these conditions is where the sensors have the easiest time to measure the pulse.
And what happens when you wear your watch too loose on your wrist allowing the light to enter and move around on your wrist? Well, we'll have a totally incorrect measurement, as you can see in this series training. This failure can be due to light entering the reading zone or to sensor movements (think of those shaky pictures you take when there is little light, if you move the camera the picture comes out jerky). This has been the only activity where I've seen sensor reading problems, caused by an adjustment error on my part.
As you can see, placement is important. Mio (and therefore Garmin) recommends that you place the sensor above the wrist bone (so that it sits correctly on the skin) and that you put the strap firmly on your arm. Firm, but you don't have to wear the watch like a boa constrictor - the idea is to keep the blood flowing and not to get gangrene on your hand.
GPS receiver performance
The first thing to note about the Garmin Forerunner 225's GPS, or rather data collection, is that Garmin uses the "smart" method of recording. This means that the clock records data variably every 3-5 seconds, as the clock sees fit. This is not a problem in itself, because as you'll see below, the final distances (and rhythms shown) are correct, but then you can find things in the tracks that look quite strange.
As an example, these two images of the same activity, the first one is the track obtained with the Garmin Forerunner 225 and its smart recording and the second one obtained with the Garmin Fenix 3 and recording at 1 second. It is true that the activity is cycling and that in the same period of time you cover much more meters than running, but there is really no reason of importance for Garmin to continue using this recording method.
Apart from that, Forerunner 225's GPS performance is satisfactory, with the same flaws you'd find in any other watch because, remember, it's not a precision instrument. Running around buildings, trees or on cloudy days causes accuracy to drop from the usual 1-3 metres at quite a few distances.
In the days of training that I have been accompanying the 225 with other models I have found no major failures to report. This does not mean that everything has always gone smoothly. Of course there are moments where some of them have gone a little more than others, but in no case anything out of the ordinary. For example, this activity where the three tracks are aligned without major problem.
There are always moments when one of the clocks can get lost, like in this case the Fenix 3 that comes out of a wooded area a little bit dizzy.
At other times everyone gets lost at once, as in the turnaround, none of the three watches marks the correct route.
As I say, the performance we can expect is satisfactory enough, similar to any other watch. In any other model you will find these errors in the tracks you get. The truth is that, as you will see in this table in which I have been adding distances of days in which I have trained with more than one watch, the final results have always been very similar.[table id=80 /]
Not only can we expect good performance in terms of distance calculation, but also in terms of displaying the rhythm on the screen. To test this, nothing is simpler than comparing it with a clock paired to a speed sensor, in this case the Fenix 3 and a Wahoo Blue SC.
The only differences that can be seen are produced by the slight delay of the GPS at the time of measuring, compared to the speed sensor. It is something logical, because while the speed sensor measures the number of turns that the wheel makes and it is instantaneous, with the GPS we have to wait for the time that passes from A to B to be calculated and, therefore, this small delay at the time of showing the data and those more pronounced peaks in each moment of speed reduction.
The optical pulse sensor is the main new feature of the Garmin 225, but compared to the Garmin FR220 the other important new feature is the inclusion of the activity monitor. But this is not surprising either, as it is becoming totally commonplace and practically mandatory in any new development. And easy to implement for brands, as all that is needed is for the watch to have an internal accelerometer, and the software takes care of the rest.
In addition to tracking your workouts, the Garmin FR225 also records the rest of your day, both during the day and when you sleep at night. It will count your steps (roughly, as everyone will now tell you) and translate them into distances traveled and calories burned. At night, when you go to sleep, it will also track you and provide basic metrics the next morning.
The activity monitor will display all data on the main clock screen, the time screen. You can scroll through the different values by pressing the up or down buttons on the left side of the clock. You can see the accumulated number of steps, the current goal, distance travelled, calories consumed (in total, basal calories plus your own activity).
You can also activate the optical pulse sensor, to make a punctual measurement of your heart rate.
After a few seconds it will show you your pulse, which will normally be the value at rest, unless you are moving. This data will not be stored anywhere and you will not be able to track it beyond the mental note itself.
Note: next time you should take the pictures upside down, so you can see the effective time in having the pulse data.
When you spend a lot of time sitting down doing very important things like looking at the ceiling with your mouth open, the clock will notify you that you have been inactive and will recommend that you get moving. In addition, in the standby screen you can see a circle that is completed as you let time pass. Once the circle is complete, that's when you will receive the notice.
The step target can be set in two different ways. On the one hand the traditional way, where you say you want to do 7500 steps a day and your target will be set with respect to that predefined figure. Or, the way I find most interesting, is to let the clock dynamically calculate your step target. Starting with 5000 steps a day, it will increase as your activity increases or decreases.
This way of selecting your goal allows the watch to squeeze you a little more each day, to help you stay active (and even get more active each day). And conversely, if your goal is too optimistic for days, it will not pull the rope so tight and give you a break by lowering the total goal. The goal is to match your activity to what you are able to do, forcing you to work a little harder to achieve your goal.
What about all this data? It's constantly synchronised if your phone is paired via Bluetooth, and you can see all the details in Garmin Connect. And if you sync your Garmin Connect account with MyFitnessPal, it allows you to send activity and exercise data from Connect to MyFitnessPal and receive calorie intake data from MyFitnessPal.
Not only will you have the data for each day, but you will also be able to view reports to see what your activity is over time, and be able to check data from a broader view.
It also tracks activity during the night, i.e. it monitors the quality of your sleep and determines the phases of your sleep (deep sleep, light sleep, awake) depending on how it interprets the movements you make. It does this at the server level and there is no need to activate a specific mode before sleep.
Again, you can see this data in Garmin Connect, both on the web and in the mobile application. And you should note that the amount of information it displays now (not just on the 225, but across the range), is far greater than what it used to display in the past.
That's the sleep levels tab, but we also have the sleep movement tab available, where your activity is reflected while you're resting and where you can see how effective your rest has been.
Usually the start and end times for going to sleep are fairly accurate, although problems can come if you lie in bed to watch TV or read before going to sleep. Lack of movement will cause you to interpret that you are already sleeping and the time reflected is longer than the actual time. However, this time can also be edited manually.
Forerunner 225 has a section that will keep a record of all the records you get.
These records include the following:
- Best time for 1 km
- Best time for 1 mile
- Best time for 5 km
- Best time for 10 km
- Longer distance traveled
And in the same way, if at the end of a race you have improved any of these records, your prize will appear on the screen. Although if you do more activities than running (for example, cycling), you should be careful, because having only one profile it is very easy to pulverize your race records. Proof of this is that I have the absolute record in the distance of 10KM, although I have not yet told anyone.
I think it's about time that Garmin added a specific cycling profile to all its watches, especially to save you the trouble.
Garmin announces a battery life of up to 4 weeks in use in power-saving mode (i.e. as a watch and activity monitor) and the figure you are interested in, in training mode with GPS activated, of up to 10 hours.
To confirm this is quite simple, just leave it with the battery charged by recording an activity and wait for it to turn off, then put it on charge and check the result.
In my case I place the watch on the roof, not before tying the strap to the window with a string (any day a seagull steals a watch from me...) and I leave it recording an activity.
The final time is quite close to 10 hours, staying only 30 minutes away from the time indicated by Garmin in their specifications.
The Garmin FR225 has ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity. Unfortunately, Garmin has not taken the opportunity to incorporate the mobile notifications into the watch screen. This may be because the hardware inherited from the Forerunner 22o does not support this feature, but I sincerely believe that Garmin has missed a good opportunity to replace the Bluetooth chip with a compatible one, as the notifications, like the activity monitor, are becoming almost mandatory.
What you can do is synchronise your watch with your phone, allowing you to synchronise your activities automatically, as well as constantly update your step and calorie data when you're not training.
The Bluetooth connection will also allow you to use the LiveTrack feature, which allows you to transmit your training or race over the Internet to anyone you provide the tracking link to. Not only will you have near real-time status data, but other metrics such as pace, distance, heart rate or training time are also transmitted.
As for sensor connection, although we have Bluetooth in the watch, it is only valid for data transfers, and we will be limited to using pulse sensors or pedometers with ANT+ technology.
Garmin Connect, web and app
Garmin Connect is the website where all your workouts will be synchronized in the cloud. You can find it at https://connect.garmin.com/Garmin has one of the most comprehensive pages for analyzing and tracking your workouts, daily activity and sleep, and you'll find many other utilities such as the ability to add your pairs of shoes to accumulate your mileage, perform reports, track your weight or create training plans.
All this is included in the purchase of your watch, and you can use it for as long as you like without having to make a premium payment. Not surprisingly, Garmin boasts a lot about its website and the services it offers, as it is logically not for less.
As for the activity tracking is really complete, you will have all the details of the route followed along with a quick look at it, and you will be able to access the data by lap or segments.
The same data can also be seen in the mobile application, called Connect, which is available for Android and iOS.
And if the Garmin website is not to your liking, you have it easy, since you can automatically synchronize your activities to other platforms such as Strava, Endomondo or TrainingPeaks, as well as to MyFitnessPal for calorie tracking, among many others.
More than a new watch, Garmin has made a reissue of an old one, and in a way you can say that Garmin has taken little risk with the 225. It still doesn't have support for other sports, that even if it's a watch for a running audience, you always do some kind of cross-training. I think it's a mistake not to include the possibility of setting up two or three different activity profiles, especially with the idea of not having the records misaligned if you happen to use the bike.
The "intelligence" aspect is missing the ability to display clock notifications. That's the way it's going, and the Garmin 225 is the only one in the category that doesn't. Obviously, it's a clock that's primarily designed for running, but it's something we can miss that other models do.
Apart from these drawbacks, I can't say anything negative about the Garmin 225. It's very light and comfortable to wear, both on a day-to-day basis and when training. It offers all the features a runner might need (including scheduled workouts) but, at the same time, it's tremendously easy to use. And the performance of the GPS and optical pulse sensor is satisfactory.
Is the Garmin Forerunner the right watch for you? If you are uncomfortable with wearing the pulse sensor on your chest, I think it is the best option on the market right now. At least if the only sport you are going to do is running. If you are going to do more sports you will find yourself lame with the FR225, in which case I think it is more interesting to look for that watch that meets all your needs and if you want to do without the chest strap, opt for an external optical sensor such as the Mio Link.
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