fitness / physical health / product review

PRODUCT REVIEW: Garmin Forerunner 220 (vs. Polar M400 vs. Forerunner 25)

Still in overtime season so my YouTube and blog posts have been pretty sparse lately. About 52 hours and many neglected chores later, my presence is not needed in the office this weekend. That’s right: TWO WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT WORK. Two entire days to catch up on blog posts, volunteer hours, cuddle time with my cat, meal planning, and an embarrassing amount of dishes to be washed. The one thing I didn’t let fall to the wayside was my half-marathon training. And honestly, I think I have my new Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch to (at least partially) thank for that.

Garmin Forerunner 225 vs. Polar M400

After a lot of research earlier in the summer, I decided to get the Garmin Vivofit fitness band as an activity tracker and fitness watch. As I work a desk job, my posture and mobility have certainly suffered since making my transition from student to professional. However, after awhile, I found one of my co-worker’s commentary to be true: “I don’t need something telling me how much I don’t move… I already know.” While the Vivofit was slim and unobtrusive (at least in terms of smart watches) it was incredibly limited in features, mainly GPS for my regular hikes. That particular fitness watch isn’t shown because I sold it on eBay after buying the Polar M400 new in open packaging on eBay for just under $80.

If you’ve looked into 2015 mid-range GPS watches at all, you will see these two going head-to-head constantly. Both have pros and cons in my book. I won’t be running through every technical aspect of these watches, just my personal opinion and experience as a fitness enthusiast (but not pro.) My favorite technical reviewers for fitness gear are RizKnows on YouTube and DC Rainmaker‘s excellent blog posts.

M400 pros:

  • Tracking for so many forms of exercise! In particular, I love that there was a specific option just for tracking hiking.
  • The exterior is modern and I enjoy the simple black and white design above but Polar also gives athletes the choice of several different colors. This is in stark contrast to Garmin forcing color on you and only having two options that are quite obviously intended to be gender specific (white/purple and black/red) which I resent on principle.
  • In addition to being sleekly designed and easy to use, the Polar mobile app is more in-depth than any casual user could ever want or need.

M400 cons:

  • As you can see from the comparison photos, the M400 is thicker and bulkier than the Forerunner 225. This is a big deal to me because I have tiny bb wrists. When the M400 shipped to my office, my co-workers laughed in disbelief at how silly-big it looked on my wrist and I couldn’t argue.
  • Doesn’t sync automatically with Runkeeper, my favorite social exercise app, nor is it easier to export activity information from the app. This meant I either had to manually enter data (and only certain kinds, not including elevation which I like to track) or start my watch and the app at the same time.
  • Took a ridiculous amount of time to lock into GPS (at least three to five minutes) although I started my walks and runs from the same spot several times a week. Towards the end, I just stopped using the M400 altogether for mainly this reason.

I won’t be reviewing the features of the Forerunner 25 as I never actually used the device but I know that I searched endlessly for size comparisons. So here you go, fellow small-wristed friends:

Garmin Forerunner 225 vs. Garmin Forerunner 25

I knew I wanted a smaller watch as the M400 slid around on my wrist and the thick rubber watch band made my arm sweaty (or rather, sweatier.) The Forerunner 10 and 15 are both small, incredibly popular after years on the market, and therefore caught my eye. But the newer Forerunner 25, which was released in August 2015, included live tracking and automatic data syncing with the Garmin Connect mobile app as well as heart rate monitor compatibility.

I ordered it, although I was hesitant about the appearance. Yes, I am very into aesthetic, even in my athletic wear and it honestly motivates me more to get out and make use of my gear when I feel cute. I kept thinking that the 25, while comparatively sleeker than the M400, looked so much like a toy. It was also $200 as a new release with a heart rate monitor chest strap… the same price as the Garmin Forerunner 220.

And as soon as I saw this particular picture, I realized: I WANT THIS THING. And ordered it as well, maybe six hours after my first purchase, for $173 refurbished without a heart rate monitor. When I opened the box, I knew I wouldn’t even bother taking the Forerunner 25 out of it’s packaging.

Foreunner 220 pros:

  • The watch lays flush to my wrist so there is not sliding but it’s not a matter of being uncomfortably tight.
  • Incredibly fast lock onto my GPS location. Even the first time, it happened almost instantaneously, before I had even left my apartment. It also syncs instantly with the Garmin Connect app, as well as an instant connection to your phone’s Bluetooth. Honestly, one of the best words I can think to describe a GPS device in this day and age is “instant.”
  • The UI is colorful, crisp, and far more lively than all the other mid-range watches I considered.
  • Vibration alerts. I don’t think I’ll use that feature for a silent alarm as some do but it’s great for being notified every time I hit a mile without having to stare down my wrist every few seconds.
  • Runkeeper has a special uploader just for Garmin data files.
  • You can customize the data you see on two different screens while you’re doing an activity, with options such as overall pace, current pace, distance, cadence, elevation, calories, etc. This is huge for me as someone in long-term recovery (but recovery nonetheless) from an eating disorder. While Runkeeper always displays the calories burned from logged activities but for some reason, it’s a relief to not be keeping a constant eye on that factor while I’m out.
  • The watch band has these little internal almost lego pieces (wow, Leah, such writing talent) that allow you to lock into your watch band sizing of choice and it won’t budge. The watch band is also soft and somewhat breathable (well, at least as breathable as rubber can be.)
  • Live tracking! As a single woman and staunch introvert, I’m used to doing a lot of things alone, including running and hiking, which my friends and family are very vocally against for understandable reasons. Although I haven’t tried out this feature myself, it’s nice to know that I might actually be able to safely go out running… AFTER DARK. Whoa. WHOA.
  • No smart notifications. This might be a con for some people but I like forcing myself to disconnect from social media for a little while and just be completely present in my chosen activity. I can’t say I’d be able to stay strong if this was an option.

Forerunner 220 cons:

  • The watch band, although comparatively more breathable than the M400’s band, is still rubber and still leaves that gross ring of extra sweat around my wrist post-run. Yum.
  •  The glass display, while definitely enhancing the UI, doesn’t seem like it could stand a serious fall. Of course, I’m talking about a major spill, hard contact to pavement kind of fall but still, I don’t think you could crack the display of a watch like the M400 that easily. The screen looks like it could easily get scratched as well, which is why I immediately applied a screen protector.
  • As previously mentioned, I’m bothered by the obviously gendered color schemes. The white/purple is more pleasing to the eye than I expected but still, I’d love a simple, clean black and white design that could match more clothing.
  • The Garmin Connect app is pretty lackluster even without comparing it to the stellar Polar Flow app.

IMG_3546

Overall, I’m incredibly satisfied with my purchase. Yes, there are other watches I would have preferred if I could spend, like, $500 but for under $200, my current search for the perfect fitness watch is over.

What’s your experience been with fitness watches, app, GPS watches, or other exercise personal technology? Do you have any recommendations for fellow readers or questions about these products you think I can answer? Let me know in the comments below!

Hoodie: Luluemon
Headphones: Amazon
DSLR camera: Samsung NX300

Be kind. Live authentically. Practice gratitude. Hustle daily. Work hard. Stay humble.

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. As the writer, I may mention, discuss, and review products but I have not been paid or sponsored for any of my opinions. My opinions reflect only my personal feelings and experiences, unless otherwise specified.

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8 thoughts on “PRODUCT REVIEW: Garmin Forerunner 220 (vs. Polar M400 vs. Forerunner 25)

  1. Hello! Great review! Quick question…if the M400 were smaller would you choose different? I’m debating these right now and the size isn’t an issue for me. Thanks and keep it up!

    • Thanks for reading and responding! Honestly, if I hadn’t bought the Forerunner 220 and was looking now, I’d go for the TomTom Spark, simply because it can store music. But I’d still pick the 220 over the M400 simply because the GPS has been better with my Forerunner. Note that I also live close to the mountains and do some running on trails further away from town. Let me know if you have any more questions and good luck deciding! I find myself still eying other watches… like that TomTom… I might have a problem, haha.

      • I definitely have a problem! I have a fitbit charge hr, but want more functions. GPS isn’t a huge deal to me nor is music, so I think I’m going M400. I’m used to Polar and like the app. Nothing seems perfect!

  2. Hi ! I don’t speak really good english so I m sorry 🙂 !
    I discovered the ” Forerunner 230 ” I do not know if you know . And I do not know if I ‘d better take this one or ” m400 polar” . I do not run a lot but I do a lot of bodybuilding and fitness! thanks for your answer !!

    • I actually don’t know anything about the Forerunner 230 so I will have to check that one out! Strength training is best measured with a chest strap heart rate monitor but even that is not always perfectly accurate. Good luck finding something that works for you and thanks for reading!

  3. Hi, I loved reading this! Sorry I’m way behind, I found your blog through various google searches and this is my first time reading your work. I currently wear a Fitbit Charge daily and use the app’s exercise tracker to log my runs. I had the Nike SportWatch before and didn’t like it because, like you said, limited functionality. It also had the same problem as you did with the M400 where the Nike watch took FOREVER to connect to GPS. That was probably my biggest issue with it. 24/7 activity monitor is very important to me because I get discounts on my health insurance for reaching a certain number of steps per week, and I think I’d like my next running watch to have that capability rather than wearing 2 devices, like I did when I had the Nike watch. What are your thoughts on wearing the 220 throughout the day to track basic activity level? It seems like you are very fashionable too and work in a professional setting; can you also comment on how you feel wearing this watch outside of running in your work setting and just casually in your downtime?

    • Oh wow, thanks for reading! Yes, choosing just one fitness tracker is an arduous task. I would say that the M400 would be better for tracking daily activities because the Garmin 220 is not an activity tracker so I don’t think it would work for you in that aspect. And if I were to wear the 220 through the day, I would change out the watch band- since it’s purple rubber, I wouldn’t be so keen wearing it in the office. I’ve been eyeing the 620 and if I were to wear a fitness watch every day, I would look elsewhere, beyond the 220 if I’m being honest. It’s great while running but definitely not an all inclusive device. If you’re still considering the 220, here’s an incredibly in-depth review by the blog DC Rainmaker. Again, if you would be okay with the M400, it is a pretty great activity tracker, even if the design isn’t my personal ideal. I just don’t currently use a step counter because my job is so sedentary that I already know I’m not moving enough, haha

  4. Great review sister, now I can choose the better quality, because since you gave the specifically review I can understand which is the best “friend” to accompanying me when I going to do sport….FIVE STARS!!!!!

    i’m so sorry for my bad english

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