Sports Tech

Garmin Forerunner 230's long battery life a top draw

The 230 does not come with a built-in heart rate monitor, unlike its pricier cousin, the 235. Made of plastic and rubber, it lacks premium build quality and wow factor.
The 230 does not come with a built-in heart rate monitor, unlike its pricier cousin, the 235. Made of plastic and rubber, it lacks premium build quality and wow factor.PHOTO: GARMIN

The Garmin Forerunner 230 GPS running watch is almost identical to its slightly more expensive cousin, the Forerunner 235 ($499).

The only difference is that the 230 comes with a chest-strap heart-rate monitor (HRM), whereas the 235 has a built-in HRM.

Like the 235, which I reviewed earlier, the 230 is a fitness tracker. It automatically tracks your steps, distance travelled, calories burned and sleep patterns. But unlike the 235, it can't monitor your heart rate all the time.

I am not a fan of a chest-strap HRM as I find it irritating to wear. But the lack of a built-in HRM in the 230 does have a plus point - it gives it a longer battery life than the 235.

According to Garmin, the 230 will last for 16 hours with the GPS function enabled, and for five weeks if used just as a smartwatch. As I wrapped up this review, I have worn the 230, which was paired with my iPhone and had a few runs logged in, for three weeks. It was still chugging along fine and did not need recharging.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $439

  • CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth and ANT+

  • WATER RESISTANCE: 50m

  • WEIGHT: 41g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

  • DESIGN: 3/5

  • PERFORMANCE: 4/5

  • BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

  • VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

  • OVERALL: 3/5

The 230's round watch face has double "flat tyres" - a black space below and on top of the 1.23-inch display (215x180 pixels).

Made of plastic and rubber, it lacks premium build quality and wow factor. It is definitely not something I would wear to wedding dinners.

There are three left and two right buttons to control the functions of the watch. Despite having reviewed several Garmin GPS running watches before, I still cannot quite get used to using the bottom two left buttons for toggling up and down, and the top right Run button for selecting an option.

The top left button is for backlight. But the display also lights up when you press the buttons that toggle the menu up and down during workouts. This is much easier than my new trusty TomTom Spark GPS Cardio + Music GPS Watch, where you need to cover the display in order to activate the backlight.

Using the chest-strap HRM is straightforward. I just have to wear the strap, go to the Settings>Sensors and Accessories options on the watch, then press Run to search for the HRM. It takes only 10 seconds for the connection to be made.

To start a workout, press the top right button. You can choose Run, Indoor Run or Bike.

The watch locked on to a GPS signal in five seconds, even when I was surrounded by high-rise HDB blocks - twice as fast as my Spark.

Comparing the data with that on my newly calibrated TomTom Spark GPS watch, I found the distances tracked differ by only 20m to 40m over runs of around 4km.

The heart-rate readings differed by no more than two or three beats per minute during runs, similar to the readings by Forerunner 235.

But the 230 counted the steps more accurately than the 235, with only a 4 per cent difference compared with my calibrated Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker.

I found its sleep-tracking function to be as inconsistent as the 235's. It wasn't able to pinpoint my sleep and wake times accurately, and it tended to show most of the sleep period as light sleep.

• Verdict: Given that Garmin Forerunner 230 is only $60 cheaper than the 235, opt for the 230 only if you prefer its better battery life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Garmin Forerunner 230's long battery life a top draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe