GPS running watches are a popular alternative for people who don’t want to risk losing or breaking their smartphones during a run. The Garmin Forerunner 220™ is a mid-range Swiss manufactured GPS running watch that features a sizeable and bright colored display with a variety of functions. The screen is not too wide, and is just big enough so that all important running stats can be seen at a glance. It is a significant upgrade to its 210 predecessor, featuring a much lighter, thinner body with a larger display, all supported by a comfortable rubber strap that can be worn at any wrist size.
Out of the box
The Garmin Forerunner 220™ comes in two colour variants: a red-accented black and a white-accented purple model. This is rather unfortunate if you prefer a different colour combination. Inside the box, you will get the main unit, a USB-powered charging dock, and a quick start manual. The package does not include an AC-powered charger. At one end of the USB-powered charging cable is a dock where you can quickly snap on the main body of the device. The dock is securely fastened to the unit that one review online stated you can even go so far as to swing the cable overhead like a lasso and it won’t fly off. Just don’t try it for yourself. Secure as it is, the unit can just as easily be removed when fully charged. Quick instructions are featured in the manual, though the unit’s user-friendly interface allows you to ditch the manual shortly after turning the unit on.
This GPS watch weighs at an amazingly light 42 grams. Screwed on to its body is a robust and flexible strap with a series of perforations so it can be comfortably worn at any wrist size. Compared to the 210, the Garmin Forerunner 220™ has a larger and bright color Chroma™ display. The text shown onscreen has enough contrast so that it can easily be read in daylight. The device also has a backlight button for night-time or dark conditions. If you have a smartphone, the GPS watch is armed with Bluetooth LE so you can wirelessly pair them together. Garmin Connect is a mobile app available for both Android and iOS devices that allows you to upload your run records from the watch to your phone. The USB end of the charging cable also allows you to store your files locally in a computer since the device can also be installed and recognized as a flash drive.
The watch also has a built-in accelerometer, and has no need for an additional foot pod. If you have a foot pod, it still allows you the option to pair it up with it. It also allows you to measure distance when GPS is unavailable. This is especially helpful if you are inside tunnels or are experiencing cloudy weather. The battery life is pretty decent. Under GPS-mode, the device lasts for around 10 hours. Switching the device to watch mode significantly extends the battery life to around 6 weeks max. The Garmin Forerunner 220™ is water-resistant up to 5 atm. This translates to a depth of around 160 feet. Despite this feature, the device cannot capture swimming metrics, but can still work fine when worn during a rough swim.
Software and interface
One notable highlight of the Garmin Forerunner 220™ is its easy-to-read interface. Well-sized buttons are an ease to push whether it’s to simply pause the run or to do more advanced adjustments depending on your needs. Garmin Connect™ is a free online community where run activities can be stored and shared among friends. As mentioned before, there is an Android or iOS-compatible mobile application that you can download to your smart phone. The app has a live tracking feature that lets your friends see your run in real time. The Garmin Forerunner 220™ is also able to automatically upload your run results to the site without fuss. Each personal best is recorded and synced online. However, recording of results can be a bit skewed since there times when the device is not able to pull older data from the cloud. Garmin Connect™ also has free training plans that you can download and personalize to fit your training needs. It also has regular firmware updates to fix any bugs and incorporate user suggestions. On the corner of the display are bars that let you know the strength of GPS connection. Satellite reception is pretty fast compared to other GPS watches, and it only takes around 4-5 seconds. Another major upgrade in the Garmin Forerunner 220™ is the capability of the user to extend the auto-sleep function to 25 minutes from the previous 5 minutes. This allows the user more time to prepare before he or she takes to the starting line. The display has programmable, horizontal split-screens for heart rate and clock. Interval training functions include programmable run/walk times for longer runs such as marathons. Since the device has a virtual pacer, the user can program the device to set off an alarm if he or she does not stick to the correct pace or heart rate. The alarm can be set to acoustic, vibration, or both at the same time. One online review, however, stated that the pacer is too sensitive, and any small changes in speed will set the alarm off. There is also an auto-pause function that stops the clock when you wait at intersections or encounter an obstacle.
How It Stacks Up
The Garmin Forerunner 220™ is a bit smaller than the Adidas Smart Run and Suunto Ambit 2S. Though light, it certainly is not the lightest as well. That title goes to the Magellan Echo. However, the Magellan Echo does not have an internal GPS but depends on your phone’s GPS instead to work. Feature-wise, it is most similar to TomTom, Timex Run Trainer 2.0, and Polar RC3. But if you prefer a thinner and lighter device and are not finicky with colour selection, then the Garmin Forerunner 220™ may be the best choice.
For a price of around $249, this GPS watch is an economical choice that has a lot of features to offer. The only drawbacks to consider are the inaccuracy of its virtual pacer, the limited choice of colors, and the inability to capture swimming and cycling metrics. Other than that, it is a strong contender for top GPS watches offered in the today’s market.