Garmin Forerunner 15 and 220 reviews: Lightweight and powerful fitness and life tracking

Garmin Forerunner 15 and 220 reviews: Lightweight and powerful fitness and life tracking

Summary: Garmin recently rolled out updates to its low and mid-range line of fitness watches. One integrates life tracking while the other adds smartphone connectivity.

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  • Garmin Forerunner 220 retail package

    Garmin looks to have three levels of GPS running watches and a couple levels of their multi-sport gear. The Garmin Forerunner 220 is the replacement for the 210 ($50 more in price), which is their mid-level running watch.

    Unlike the Forerunner 15, there is no daily activity tracking functionality in the Forerunner 220. It is a dedicated training device and offers increased functionality over the FR15 in regards to training.

    Forerunner 220 Hardware

    The Garmin Forerunner 220 is an upgrade to the Forerunner 210. One of the major improvements is the reduction in thickness and the better fit around the wrist. It is also 11 grams lighter, which is pretty significant when the total weight is just 41 grams.

    The model I tested is red and black with red color highights around the front face, on the back and in the openings of the strap, and on the large run button. You can also buy the Forerunner 220 with a violet band adn white face.

    There are five buttons around the display. In the lower left you will find two buttons close to each other that are used to move up and down through the different menus and display options. The upper left button is used to toggle the backlight and to turn the device off. The upper right button, red on this model, is used to start and stop the timer as well as to choose the selected menu item. The bottom right button is used as the back button to go back one level as you navigate the device software.

    Like the FR15, there are plenty of openings in the watch band to fit any wrist size. The charging cable/cradle fits around the back of the device and snaps into place quite securely. I only connected the charging cradle to charge the device and update the firmware of the FR220.

    The display is color, but not so colorful as to be distracting. Highlights are easy to see and the display is very visible in direct sunlight.

    It is waterproof and sweatproof so you can take it just about anywhere. The battery lasts for up to ten hours when using the GPS receiver so I could easily go a week on a single charge.

    Device and Connectivity Software

    The software on the Forerunner 220 is easy to use and you don't have to spend much time configuring it for your run. There are plenty of options for what data you want to appear on one or two displays, including distance, pace, speed, heart rate, lap time, timer, and more.

    I used the MIO Link to connect to the FR220 and record my heart rate. While the FR220 has a Bluetooth radio, it cannot be used for a heart rate monitor as it is dedicated to your smartphone connection.

    The FR220 connects to the Garmin Connect app on your phone and this functionality works quite well. You can even take your phone on the run with you and enable Live Tracking so that people can follow your run. This seems like a great thing to do for races and I plan to test this out in my upcoming half marathon.

    The Garmin Connect website works to collect the data you upload to your smartphone or via the Garmin Express PC application that is also used to perform software updates and manage the hardware itself.

    Usage and experiences

    The Garmin Forerunner 220 is a rather awesome GPS running watch and is the one I may purchase to go along with my Vivofit used for daily life tracking. I love the color display, super long battery life, ease of use, and key information provided on the display.

    I have pretty basic needs for my training and cannot justify the $150 premium to get the Forerunner 620 even if it is an amazing looking device. The Forerunner 220 provides me with the ability to sync to my Android phone (iPhone too), provide me with pace alerts, and auto scroll through two screens of data as I run.

    I don't run inside on a treadmill as I am blessed with fairly mild weather in Washington that allows me to run outside all year long. I understand there is decent footpod support, but did not test this functionality.

    Pros and Cons

    To summarize my experiences with the Garmin Forerunner 220, here are my pros and cons.

    Pros Cons
    Clear color display  Wide bezel around viewable display
    Long battery life  
    Lightweight and comfortable  
    Easy to manipulate buttons  
    Custom workout functionality  
    Helpful coaching and training software  

    Pricing and availability

    The Garmin Forerunner 15 is available now for $249.99. You can also buy a bundle with a heart rate monitor for $299.99.

    The competition

    There are plenty of competitors in this category and I have tested a couple of them like the MOTOACTV and TomTom Multi-Sport. The Garmin Forerunner 220 is priced about $50 more than some of the other mid-range devices, but they don't all connect to iOS and Android devices either.

    Garmin has a lot of experience with these devices and their current products are well defined and safe bets for purchase. I like the easy button system on the FR220 and couldn't really get used to the touchscreen on my friend's higher end Garmin device.

    Specifications
    45.5 mm diameter x 12 mm thick
    25.4 mm round color display with 180 x 180 pixels resolution
    Weight of 40.7 grams
    Water resistant up to 5 ATM
    Stores up to 200 hours of activity data
    ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart wireless technology
    5 week battery life in watch mode and up to 10 hours in training mode

    Conclusion

    I have run a couple of half marathons in Seattle and the GPS devices I used failed me both times since there were tunnels on the course. The Garmin Forerunner 220 has an integrated accelerometer to help keep you on track when you run through tunnels or lose GPS.

    While I really like the Forerunner 15 and could get rid of my Vivofit, I think I would rather have a nicer Forerunner 220 and the Vivofit that I can wear and forget about for a year.

    The FR220 is very light and I don't even notice it is on my wrist. I love that my MOTOACTV syncs via WiFi as soon as I walk into the door from a run and the Forerunner 220 is able to do even better with syncing to my Android phone wherever I am. I never have to connect the FR220 to a PC, unless I am performing software updates.

    I wouldn't know what to do with all the running dynamics and advanced data collected by the Forerunner 620. I think the 220 is perfect for recreational runners like myself who run to stay in shape and are not trying to win any races.

    The battery life allows me to train all week without worrying if I charged it up before a run. It is a cool looking GPS watch and likely to be my next fitness purchase. I have a half marathon coming up in August and may need to get one soon.

    I highly recommend you read the DC Rainmaker review. His reviews on all fitness gear set the standard.

    Contributor's rating: 9.5 out of 10

  • Forerunner 15 retail package contents, with heart rate strap

  • Forerunner 15 charging and syncing cradle

Topics: Mobility, Android, Health, iPhone, Reviews

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2 comments
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  • Garmin produces really beautiful things

    Garmin produces really beautiful things
    oyun oyna
    jerryy26
  • Replaceable wristlet

    Garmin 220 has replaceable wristlet. Plastic wristlets live is not so long. And I think you prefer change wristlet only but not the gadget (as in the case of Garmin 15).
    VladArtukov