The Forerunner 225 from Garmin (commonly referred to as the Garmin FR225) has hit Australia’s shores amidst much hype. Will Garmin’s first venture into measuring heart rate at the wrist be more successful than it’s competing brands lacklustre attempts? Better still, will Garmin’s bold claims that the Forerunner 225 wrist-based optical sensor will match the accuracy of a traditional HR chest strap ring true? Highly Tuned Athletes have put the FR225 through its paces and the results surprised even us.
Forerunner 225: Optical HR Accuracy
Having tried and tested so many wrist-based HRM watches over the last few years and being left bitterly disappointed by all, we couldn’t help but be a little skeptical of the accuracy of the Forerunner 225, even if it was from such a reputable brand as Garmin. Up until now, the biggest blights on wrist-based HRM watches have been the delay or “lag” between your actual BPM and what the watch displays (sometimes out as much as 30 seconds), and the accuracy of the numbers displayed (regularly off by ±10 BPM). What was the point of ditching the HR chest strap if the numbers were off?
The only logical method of testing Garmin’s claims was to put the Forerunner 225 up against a known quantity; in this instance a Forerunner 920XT, HRM-Run transmitter, and (unused) V3 premium strap. Instead of going out for a normal run and maintaining a fairly constant pace (which would have produced pretty boring graphs), the test run consisted of random intervals of sprinting, running, jogging, and even walking to emulate as many changes in heart rate as possible. The results are as follows:
Amazingly, the wrist-based optical sensor of the Forerunner 225 actually picked up the initial spike ① in heart rate faster than the trusty Garmin chest strap, with no evidence of the lag found with other wrist-based HRM watches. Following this jump, where both graphs seem to plateau out, there are a few irregularities between the two units with the 920XT missing a short sprint ② up to maximum HR that the Forerunner 225 noticeably picked up. A walk follows the sprint ③ and it is from this point on that the two graphs are almost identical, both picking up the shift to a run ④ at exactly the same time, and also the slow to a jog ⑤ and subsequent walk ⑥ to finish. From our testing, the Forerunner 225 is as accurate at measuring heart rate as the traditional HR chest strap of the Forerunner 920XT, and definitely in a different league when compared to other wrist-based HRM watches.
Forerunner 225: Other Highlights
The menu and operation of the Forerunner 225 is almost identical to its predecessor, the Forerunner 220. For those not familiar with the Forerunner 220, it was arguably the most user-friendly and best value for money GPS running watch ever made, so I guess Garmin wisely followed the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when designing the FR225. That being said, the wrist-based optical sensor wasn’t the only addition. Garmin has included an activity tracker with a unique display on the main screen. This allows the wearer to quickly check their daily activity without having to scroll away from the main screen. We should also point out how comfortable the watch is. Thanks to the rubber seal on the rear of the watch, the Forerunner 225 feels far more comfy than other wrist-based HRM watches, whose optical sensors tend to dig into the wrist when tightened sufficiently to measure HR (albeit not accurately). Since the main purpose of the seal is to keep light (and water if measuring heart rate whilst swimming) away from the optical sensor, the comfort when wearing the watch is definitely an added bonus.
Forerunner 225: Conclusion
So Garmin was right: the Forerunner 225 is as accurate as a traditional HR chest strap. Unlike other wrist-based HRM watches, the FR225 doesn’t suffer from lag and doesn’t show any signs of being ±10 BPM out all the time. Runners rejoice! Thanks to the Garmin Forerunner 225 you can throw away your old HR chest strap and be confident in the HR metrics it provides.