If you've been running for a long time, or if you get out with groups of other avid runners, or if you just like to visit us at CRC from time to time, you’ve probably seen a Garmin Forerunner of some type in action.
The Garmin brand has become almost synonymous with “GPS watch.” It has nearly reached that mythical mantle—currently shared by Kleenex, Band-AID and Jell-O—where the brand-name products have become what people use to refer to all brands of the products themselves (in this case, facial tissue, adhesive bandages, and gelatin, respectively). Garmins are the standard for GPS watches in running.
If you have ever purchased or researched a Garmin, though, you might have noticed that their success is not tied to a concise, clear explanation of the differences in their products. Thank goodness that you have stumbled on this post, because it’s all about to get cleared up for you.
The most basic of the Garmin watches, you can think of the Forerunner 25 as the base model of a car. This watch works very well and has all the functions most people need from a GPS watch. The two subsequent watches we will cover have a lot more features that might seem like unnecessary luxuries, but once you try them out, you feel like you can never go back.
The FR 25 measures distance, pace, and time using GPS satellites, and it is also an effective activity tracker that monitors your steps and calories burned throughout the day. The display is very basic and has only two data fields on each screen. However, you can cycle through multiple screens and customize the numbers you see in each data field. The FR 25 also gives you smartphone notifications such as email and text alerts.
All of your runs will be uploaded to your Garmin Connect app once you save a run and it is in range to connect with the bluetooth on your phone. This makes reviewing your activities after the fact as simple as can be.
As mentioned before, the FR 35 can do everything the FR 25 does—it just has a few more features. The major difference between the two is that the FR 35 features a wrist-based heart rate monitor, which is a technology that has only recently become effective enough to market in a wrist watch.
Also, the activity tracker in the FR 35 is slightly more advanced, tracking sleeping patterns including REM, deep, and “restless” periods of sleep. This is the best-selling watch in our shops because the $169.99 price point packs a lot of punch technology-wise in a watch that’s very sleek-looking, and just $70 more than the far more basic FR 25.
Forerunner 645 M
This is the newest watch of those that we’ve covered, and it has by far the most options of the three (and a significantly higher price tag at $449.99). My goodness, though, does it have a lot of features.
In fact, the FR 645 M does so much more than the FR 35 that it is not easy to cover in one blog post. Of course, it does everything the FR 35 does. The major upgrade that is featured with the FR 645 M is that it has enough hard drive space to store up to 500 songs directly on the watch, so if you run with music or podcasts, this is how you free yourself from having to carry your phone with you on the run.
Additionally, the FR 645 M uses your heart rate data to estimate your VO2max, your training load, predict race times, and what seems like a hundred other features that I’ve found (as an owner of this steeply-priced toy) I never knew I wanted until I had them.
Even in an article where I am trying to keep things simple and to-the-point, Garmin watches have so many features that they lend themselves to confusing dialogues and, in this case, blog posts. The best way to clear up confusion and decide what’s best for you is to come into one of our shops and talk out the different options with a staff member and—most importantly—match the options of the watch to your specific running habits and goals.
If you’ve been pondering getting yourself a Garmin for a while now, ponder no longer! There is an option out there for everyone.
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Mike Ward is CRC's accessories buyer and most thorough email writer. He is a cat enthusiast and plays guitar for the Wet Bandits, your favorite '90s cover band.