Our recommendation for an entry level of a running smartwatch & fitness tracker.
Garmin Forerunner is our recommendation for anyone looking for a budget fitness tracker with it’s own GPS tracker – this model smartwatch offers tons of great features and is the cheapest option of a Garmin line. However despite being the entry model it is still a bit on the steep side : $199.99 is the official retail price.
However the product comes with some features, that you would expect to see in higher end of smartwatches. It tracks your heart rate optically, adaptive to your well-being training modes, it’s own GPS tracker, keeps tracked of your bodies energy & stress level and is able to tell you when you are tired and you should rest. Additionally it works with your music player of choice, shows your phone notifications and has couple safety features — like incident detection and live tracking.
As you can see that’s a lot of functionality for it’s price range and it blows away the competition from features point of view, which is why this is our recommendation for a running watch in the entry level. However this smartwatch has couple of issues and the biggest one is…
Garmin Forerunner comes in two different sizes : the standart 45 that is 42mm and the 45S which is slightly smaller at 39mm. Both versions come with a 1.04 inch 208×208 color display. Despite the low resolution the screen is bright enough, so you won’t have much difficulties reading the stats, just be prepared that the screen quality is way below like Samsung Galaxy or Apple Watch.
The controls are similiar to most Garmin watches : the 5 buttons for stop/start, up, down, back and backlight. If you have ever used a Garmin watch you will be able to work with this watch and if not it is very intuitive and easy to get accustomed to. Despite the serious power and tons of available functions, the watch weights just 32g or 36, depending on if you picked 39mm or 42mm versions.
This weight has been achieved by using a plastic frame and buttons, and a silicone band with a quality that would be okey for a … $10 watch. The strap slider also has additional issues and it slides off the silicone band leaving the strap to flap. It is just very, very bad and would recommend to include a budget for a new strap immediately.
As we discussed above you get tons of cool features for a watch that costs less than $200. If you are runner or do some casual training this watch will be more than enough for your needs. If you are a complete beginner to running and fitness – don’t worry. The combination of watch and app comes with personalized training that can take you from coach to 5k to running a marathon. You set your goals and training regimes pretty easily from Garmin connect. You can also do a benchmark run, which the application will analyze and use to create a running plan for your needs.
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It is important to note that this is mostly a running watch and all the major functions are working for this mode. There are in total 12 workout types including cardio, indoor track, biking and treadmill. You can choose up to 6 of those to be available for fast selection from the watch, however this is a bit uncomfortable as you won’t have access to all workout types from your watch. Very important to note that swimming is not available, despite the fact that the watch is water-resistant. The watch will keep 200 hours of workout data before it syncs them to the Garmin’s mobile application.
The watch will show details like steps, distance, pace and will also show cadence. In case you don’t know what cadence means – it is a very important running metric and shows the number of steps per minute. This is a important number that a lot of beginners love to work on.
Couple of new and interesting features added in this watch are the Body energy and Stress level. The body battery energy is a system that takes couple different stats like your heartbeat, sleep and your workout activity to show you a score of up to 100 – defining how much energy you have at this point. If your energy is low and you lie down for 10-15 mins it will increase. Similarly the stress levels keep decent track on your stress levels with plenty of positive reviews.
Pairing the watch with your phone makes it pretty easy for you to start controlling your Spotify playlist for example, as well as unlock smart notifications like Messenger/Instagram Messages. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth.
Surprisingly the watch has a pretty solid battery life with up to 13 hours in a GPS mode or a week in smartwatch mode. It has enough juice to cover a whole week with one hour runs every day, which is pretty good. It can also cover a whole day of GPS enabled running or hiking.
Overall this is a great entry level smartwatch with tons of features that believes that the inside is more important than the outside. All the features are pretty great to have, but the design quality leaves a lot to be desired. Still we recommend this as our best entry level smartwatch.