Garmin Forerunner 235 Review: Still a Formidable Contender

The Garmin Forerunner 235 first came out in 2015. Even though this running watch is several years old, it’s still a formidable contender in the world of running watches. We were impressed by how much it offered at such an affordable price

The Garmin Forerunner 235 features high-tech tracking and has a comfortable, lightweight design. You can use it as a smartwatch, a wristwatch, a sleep monitor, and much more!

The 235 can keep track of your steps and running distance. It helps motivate us to train better and smarter by providing real-time tracking data of the distance we covered, how much sleep we got, and how many calories we burned. It’s also capable of delivering smart notifications and offers customizable faces.

We put together this Garmin Forerunner 235 review to help you get an idea of everything this watch offers. Let’s get started!

1. Design

These days, running watches are surpassing our expectations, and the 235 is no exception. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is fashionable and functional. You can enjoy all its innovative features while barely feeling it on your wrist, thanks to its lightweight design.

The breathable silicone strap ranges from almost 6 inches to 9 inches wide. It has perforated holes on both bands to allow you to adjust the fit. They’re also there to boost breathability.

You can choose from a black and gray watch band or a Frost Blue and black band. There’s also Marsala, which is a band with a black exterior and a red inner lining.

Even though the band is more comfortable to wear than other models, there are times when that comfort level will drop. That’s because the sensor protrudes more than other watches. So if you’re running for extended periods, you can start to feel some discomfort.

One great feature is the round and colorful display screen. It’s larger by 44% than previous Garmin models, as the 225. Yet, both watches have a similar screen diameter that’s slightly over 1-inch long.

We liked the fact that the Garmin 235 is both lightweight and relatively thin. It has a thickness of 0.46 inches and weighs less than 2 ounces.

The screen is transflective memory in pixel (MIP) LCD screen. Transflective is a blend of the two words transmissive and reflective. It’s a liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen. This screen features an optical layer that reflects light then transmits it.

This advanced LCD screen is known for its dim backlight. It’s what makes reading the screen at night much more comfortable. Transflective screens also make it easier to see the screen in the bright sunlight.

To access all the features on this watch, you can use the buttons on either side of the watch. There’s the power button on the top left side, which also turns the backlight on and off.

Underneath it, you’ll find two buttons close together. You can use them to scroll through the settings, screens, and widgets.

The button with the arrow tip pointing upwards selects an activity profile. If you hold it, you can scroll through the options menu. The button with the arrow tip pointing downward opens up the menu.

On the right side, the top button starts and stops the timer and accepts a text or email message. You can also use it to select a particular option. Underneath this button, there’s a button to begin a new lap or go back to the previous screen underneath this button.

2. Features


Elevate sensor technology

The Garmin 235 is one of the first to feature the Garmin Elevate optical sensor. This innovative technology enables all-day heart rate tracking, calorie, and sleep tracking.

It can come in handy to monitor your training progress. Not only that, but it can also detect factors like when you’ve been over-training. The Elevate technology can also sense if you’re going to come down with a possible bout of cold or flu.

How does it do that? It measures your average resting heart rate (RHR) over the past week and gives you a reading. Then, you can take this data and compare it to previous readings during the past seven days. That can give you a sense of when your RHR was higher or lower than average.


Long battery life

The Forerunner 235 can last up to 11 hours if it’s in GPS mode. If the GPS is turned off, the battery can last up to a full week, even longer depending on how much you use it.

The only downside is that Garmin dictates you use their own charger. It may seem annoying at first, but you quickly get used to it.

The charger is a lightweight cable that you simply clip on one end to the watch. Then you attach the other end to a USB charging head.


Step tracker

The accelerometer on the Garmin Forerunner 235 keeps tabs of your movements. It counts your steps and measures the distance you cover throughout the day.

This is all thanks to the GPS and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) satellite functions. Both work together to increase accuracy and provide better coverage.


Activity tracker

The activity tracker is one of the features that set this watch apart. It works by collecting data on your daily activity and sleep patterns.

The tracker also uses your daily patterns to create future goals. That’s a great motivator and keeps you on your toes. It’s also a great way to keep an eye on your overall health patterns.

The activity tracker also keeps tabs on your sleep patterns. But when we tested the Garmin Forerunner 235 against other watches, it fell short. The latest activity trackers are able to do more.

There were significant discrepancies when it came to the total number of hours we slept. It always gave us more than the actual number. The 235 also couldn’t differentiate between lying on the couch and falling asleep.


Recovery advisor

The Recovery Advisor predicts how long you’ll need to recover from your most recent run session. The shorter your recovery time, the more your body can adapt to the physical stress of exercise. That’s when the real effect of your training starts to take place.

To get a precise measurement, the Garmin 235 gives you a score from 0 to 5. That’s the number of hours you have to wait before starting on another high-level workout routine.


Race predictor

The Race Predictor uses an algorithm to track your current run times. It then uses that to estimate how fast you could run other races, such as half a marathon or even a full one.

Comparing this feature with other running watches, the Garmin Forerunner 235 doesn’t seem reliable. Its predictions are sometimes unreasonably way off.


Wireless connectivity

Garmin has upped its game with its syncing ability, apps, and widgets. One feature we appreciated was the training calendar.

You can set up a calendar with all your training sessions, including warm-ups and cool-downs. Then you sync it to your watch so you can have all your workout details readily available.

Another great feature is the automatic syncing with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Yet, the connection sometimes drops or takes several times before it’s successful. It’s not the most reliable.

With Android phones, the Forerunner 235 frequently drops its Bluetooth connectivity. In comparison, connecting to an iPhone is more stable.

Another connected feature is Garmin’s app, Connect IQ. With this app, you can customize the watch screen and face by visiting the Connect IQ store. You also have access to widgets, apps, and 3rd-party sites, such as Strava and MyFitnessPal.

Also, you can receive smart notifications, such as:

  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Calendar reminders
  • Call alerts
  • Social media updates
  • Current and future weather forecasts and conditions


Another great feature we love about the Garmin Forerunner 235 is that it has a 5 ATM rating. Almost all fitness watches have a waterproof rating or 30 meters. The 235 can safely handle being underwater up to a depth of 50 meters.

That means you can go swimming with your watch, and it’ll stay in great shape. You can also wear it while taking a shower, walking in the rain, or when you’re dripping wet with sweat. That’s impressive!


Extra features

In addition to all these nifty features, here are a few more to add functionality to the Garmin Forerunner 235.

  • Stopwatch
  • Calendar sync
  • Automatic daylight saving updates
  • Weather information
  • Find My Phone
  • Remotely operate camera shutters via VIRB

3. Performance

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is known for its high-scale performance in areas like the activity tracker and accelerometer. Yet there are other areas where certain features are lacking and need a bit of improvement.

Putting all that aside, this running watch has aged well. It still offers terrific features. Anyone who takes their training performance a bit more seriously than the casual runner will be pleased with the 235.

The whole point of wearing a running watch is to give readings of your run sessions. A good running watch, however, takes it a step further and works to boost your performance.

The Training Effort shows the impact of your run sessions on your body. It also tells you what to do for speedier recovery time. This includes your heart rate, as well as the duration and intensity of your workout session.

The Forerunner 235 also gives your VO2max information. VO2max estimates the maximum volume of oxygen you can use during any type of activity. It’s an excellent way to keep track of your central functions, such as blood flow rate, lung capacity, and heart rate. It also tracks your peripheral factors, such as the muscular and skeletal systems.

4. Value for Money

Just as we took the Forerunner 235 for a test drive, we decided to check out some of the other competitors on the market, starting with the Polar M430. It first came out in late 2019 and had many of the same features as the 235. Yet, we noticed that it costs less than the 235.

In addition, the M430 features a more reliable heart rate sensor and race predictor than the Garmin 235. The GPS location tracking and sleep tracking features are better on the Polar M430.

Then, we had a look at the Fitbit Charge 3, which came out in the summer of 2018. We found that it worked best when tracking activities that weren’t based on distances, as with our yoga and fitness routines. Plus, it was simpler to use than the 235.

While the Fitbit Charge 3 does a decent job of tracking runs, the Forerunner 235 was the clear winner in this area. There’s also 235’s lightweight design, customizable features, and wireless connectivity. These features could be why the 235 costs slightly more than the Charge 3.

Finally, we decided to take a look at one of Garmin’s own. The Vivosmart 4 is a sleek and stylish watch. It was released in mid-2018 with several new and improved features over the 235.

The Vivosmart 4 is slender and less bulky than the 235. It’s better suited for those who prefer to wear watches that don’t feel clunky on their wrists or get in the way. We also liked that the Vivosmart 4 costs less than the 235.

5. Our Rating

8 Total Score
Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is affordable, yet doesn’t skimp out on features like the GPS and heart monitor. It features an impressive breathable silicone band and easy-to-use side buttons. Plus, the 235 has a high water rating, which means you won't have to take it off when you go swimming or shower.

Value for Money
  • Easy to use
  • Available in 3 sporty colors
  • Extended battery life
  • Built-in GPS and GLONASS
  • Lightweight
  • All-day heart, distance, and activity tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters
  • Breathable, soft strap
  • A wide range of customizable features
  • Smart notifications
  • Good value for the price
  • No way of viewing current data when you pause an activity
  • Some users complained that the heart monitor isn’t accurate
  • The timer seems to stop on its own during runs
  • Requires a specific Garmin charger
  • App connectivity is a bit lagging
  • No Wi-Fi