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Review from a serious runner and Garmin loyalist: Garmin mucks up current pace
July 18, 2016
It's fascinating that a lot of the reviews for the 235 here are from folks who wanted a "fitness tracker". I always thought of the Forerunner as a tool for runners, so it's just odd to me that so many people want one of these as an everyday wristwatch. There's nothing wrong with that, except that their reviews are kind of meaningless for the serious runner. So to set the context, here's a review from the perspective of someone who runs a lot and is fairly competitive at the age group level.
I've been using Garmin Forerunners for 6-7 years, working my way from the 205 to the 305 to the 310XT. I was excited to get the 235, not so much for the no-chest-strap HRM, but simply for the form factor. I was giddy to contemplate finally having a Forerunner that didn't feel like a brick on my wrist. Was also excited at the prospect of having a device that didn't take as long as a minute and a half to pick up satellites at the start of a run.
I'm certainly pleased with the form factor--- compared with my 310XT, the 235 is wonderfully light and unobtrusive. And it does indeed pick up satellites very quickly. Beyond that.... I am not pleased. My biggest gripe (about which I'm surprised to have seen so little complaining in various online forums) is the "current pace" function. It's positively godawful in the 235--- appallingly inaccurate and slow to adjust! I had no reason to expect it would be this bad, based on my experience with earlier Forerunners, all of which seemed to have this function down cold.Why has Garmin gone BACKWARD in this capability?
As a dedicated runner who runs a lot of half-marathons with the occasional full marathon tossed in now and again, I require a pretty basic set of functions from my running GPS: Time, distance, current pace, average pace, and lap capabilities. That's all I ask--- but these functions need to work perfectly. To me, it feels as though Garmin has compromised the most critical functions of the Forerunner for the sake of cramming all kinds of ridiculous useless bells and whistles into the 235 (and other high-end models). They need to go back to basics and come up with a model targeting serious runners. Screw the bluetooth pairing, the step-counting, the calories-burned, the "your phone is ringing!" notifications, etc. etc. I need a running tool, not a PDA!
Current pace is absolutely critical for any serious runner attempting to hit a particular time goal in a race. You need to be able to set and hold a fairly steady pace in order to nail your desired finish time, and adjust that pace as circumstances dictate. I'm finding the 235 unreliable for this purpose. It displays a pace that I know to be inaccurate, and takes far too long to adjust. It's also pre-programmed only to display pace in 5-second increments, and seems to insist upon "hitting" each and every one of those increments in the course of adjusting the displayed pace. For instance, if I suddenly increase my pace from, say, 8:30 per mile to 8:00 per mile, it won't adjust the pace display directly from "8:30" to "8:00"... it will stodgily work its way from 8:30 to 8:25 to 8:20 to 8:15 to 8:10 to 8:05 before FINALLY, after 25 seconds of running, hitting 8:00. USELESS!
Aside from this, while mildly entertaining, the wrist-based HRM is also unreliable. I didn't have false expectations about the accuracy of this relatively new technology, and figured that really didn't matter, as long as it was ballpark-accurate. However, when the HRM just decides to stop working at all, as it did for a run this past weekend, how useful is that? It seemed completely arbitrary when the HRM subsequently decided to work again for the very next run. But if you cannot count on the thing, what's the point?
Another annoyance: It's apparently not possible to have a view of current data when pausing an activity; you're stuck with a display that asks if you want to "Resume" or "Save" the activity. If I'm stuck at a traffic light during a run, I'd like to be able to pause the device and then study the current data. Not an option here. Irritating!
Overall, the 235 has just made me grumpy. I am now seriously considering replacing it with a new-old stock 910XT, now that those have gotten cheaper. Sure, I'll be going backward in the clunkiness department, and I'll also completely lose the convenience of the wrist-based HRM, but neither of those things matters to me half as much as an accurate current pace feature.
Garmin, please come up with a model that dispenses with the silly tech-head bells and whistles and focuses on doing the basics perfectly for runners.