From: TechRadar: All latest feeds - Review: Garmin Forerunner 15

Review: Garmin Forerunner 15

Intro, battery life, screen and build

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is Garmin's second cheapest running watch, and the cheapest to support heart rate tracking. Shop around and you'll find it for under £100/$100 (or about £20/$20 more with a heart rate strap), which is about half the price of the Garmin Forerunner 225.

It's also less than some fitness trackers that do little more than tell you that you've walked for 10,000 steps and then had a sleep. And while it doesn't do sleep tracking, it does have step- and activity-monitoring in its, admittedly limited, feature set.

With GPS, external HR strap support and the redoubtable powers of the Garmin Connect online platform, the Garmin Forerunner 15 looks a tempting deal, especially if you're on a budget or just starting out as a runner. So how does it shape up?

Battery life and screen

Garmin Forerunner 15 charging socket

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is a simple device on the outside, and the screen is a study in cloth-cutting, being an old school, black and white, LCD dot matrix affair.

However, it's clear enough, and Garmin has cunningly restricted the amount of info that is shown at any one time, to make the most of the limited screen real estate. There's a hollowness to the screen when tapped that's not very premium, but then the Forerunner 15 isn't sold at a premium price.

One very beneficial side effect of the lo-fi screen is that the battery life is an epic five weeks as an activity tracker and watch, and a respectable eight hours of proper run tracking with GPS.

The tiny battery indicator visible on the left of the screen at all times is a nice touch, too, though as ever with Garmin, I could have done without the proprietary desktop charging clasp thing. I've seen worse chargers, mind - at least this is a simple system to hook up correctly, with the watch clicking into place positively.

Build, design and comfort

The build quality is pretty decent on the Garmin Forerunner 15, in spite of its price point, and it's waterproof to 40m. I tested it in the pouring summer rain on several occasions, and along with a few rinses under the tap it's kept ticking along nicely.

Garmin Forerunner 15 strap

The strap is a standard buckle clasp, although worth mentioning there are two sizes - one 'mens' and one 'womens'. We landed the 'womens' strap, and it's certainly on the slim side.

There's a range of colourways to tempt either sex, but overall it's a workmanlike, sporting design package. The buttons are easily operated on the move, and once you've silenced the hundred and one alerts and tones in the menu, it's a decent experience.

How is it as a running watch?/Heart rate tracking

Garmin Forerunner 15 on the run

Running watch functionality

First up, let's compliment Garmin on a fine bit of GPS watch action. This little fella gets a satellite lock in super-quick time, often far faster than 'premium' watches at more than twice the price. Many of those higher-end tools are using smartphone links to download location data too, while the little Garmin is all on it s own.

On a complex test route the Garmin Forerunner 15 tracked as accurately, if not slightly better than most, even correctly plotting a canal lock bridge longcut which many trackers miss. This does make a vast difference when heading out of the door, the Garmin chirruping it's readiness within a few yards makes the process seamless. Once a lock has been obtained, hitting the coloured top right button triggers the tracker and you're off.

On the move the UI is as intuitive as they come, with a simple few screens delivering the optimum info with minimum fluff. So you get time and distance, then pace and calories, then back to time and date. The order of these and which ones you prefer can be set in the sexily-titled 'data fields' in run options on the watch.

Cycling through these screens is very simple, and triggering the light if running under murky skies is similarly easy. Hitting the coloured 'run' button again during a session pauses tracking, and you can choose whether to save or delete the run too.

Garmin Forerunner 15

In 'run options' you can set run/walk times, create a virtual pacer, set HR training zones and corresponding alerts, as well as set whether you're keenest on pace/speed/lap pace, etc.

Essentially, most training options are addressed in one form or another. With all this on the watch rather than an app - there is NO mobile app, which seems mad, but there it is - setup can feel overly complex, but at least all your options are in one place.

Pairing with a footpod ticks off the treadmill or indoor track sessions, and although we were hampered by testing the non-HR version outdoors the backing stats were accurate enough.

However, the budget price does show in the stats you get. There's no insight into performance on the device, and without a mobile companion app you have to wait till the next desktop sync for any kind of drill down.

Heart rate monitor

Garmin Forerunner 15 heart rate strap

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is compatible with external heart rate monitors, but only ANT+ ones, so be aware of that. For about an extra £20/$20 you can get it bundled with this HR strap.

With a decent chest strap the accuracy is perfectly reasonable, and the Garmin does have several handy HR tricks up its sleeve. For a kickoff you can reset your max HR on the watch itself, which is unusual.

You can also set HR training zones on the watch, accompanied by an alarm for exceeding them. It's less intuitive than a Polar, but it'll do the job. It's easier to use Garmin Connect to configure your zones in any manner you wish, then sync them back to the watch.

App, step counting and verdict

The app

Garmin Forerunner 15 app

You'll need to download Garmin Express software to talk to the Garmin Connect web interface. That's easy.

However, the big, bad-news headline about the Forerunner 15 is that it's missing Bluetooth - that's why you need an ANT+ HR strap - so it can't sync direct with a phone or tablet app. That means it not only looks like a digital watch from 20 years ago, it acts like a fitness wearable from about the same era.

It ties you to a desktop to sync your sessions. The Garmin Connect app means you can at least view your desktop stats on the move once you've synced, but there's no direct interfacing with the watch.

Even so, while this makes it clear that the Forerunner 15 is a budget device, the fact that it hooks into the Garmin Connect ecosystem means it has enough power to belie that.

Garmin Connect is bewilderingly granular and somewhat complex, but it's certainly not budget. Garmin's spent years building this temple to the god of fitness data, and they use a version of it to track their pro cycle teams, so you're getting some of the sharpest tools on the planet here.

Within Garmin Connect you can sign up to training plans, take part in challenges, follow friends and rivals, mull over your Personal Bests, and drill down into your performance data.

The training plans are particularly strong, with an enormous range in abilities being served at a couple of clicks, from couch-to-5k style, through to Olympic triathlon prep and level three marathon plans. It's great value, and if you want more Garmin has a solid array of info here.

Step counting and other features

Garmin Forerunner 15 step counter

Like a running watch that's eaten a Garmin Vivofit 2 for lunch, the Forerunner 15 has an activity tracker to keep you on point. If you've been remiss enough to sit in an office chair for 60 mins or so without making your way towards the internationally-mandated 10,000 steps then a beep and subtle 'Move!' screen alert will get you up and doing.

Step data is synced to Garmin Connect, so you can take part in step challenges against other layabouts. On the device you can set step goals, and there's a handy readout of your performance at the bottom of the time screen.

Other extras? No, not really. There's no recovery time indicator, no vibrating alerts, no smartphone alerts and no sleep tracking. These are all features that come in handy or at least pique interest on other running watches, but here you're just getting core essentials and nothing more.

We liked

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is keenly priced. In fact, short of raiding Aldi's bargain bin, it's as cheap as full featured running watches get. Yet despite this, the GPS performance is as good as you get on any running watch, and you get Garmin Connect to analyse your progress towards becoming Mo Farah.

Although admittedly it did occasionally seem to think I was doing a triathlon rather than a run.

Running underwater

The above-average battery life also counts strongly in the Garmin Forerunner 15's favour.

We disliked

There's not a lot to complain about, given the price, but a lot of users will feel it's worth paying more to get Bluetooth - and hence access to a smartphone app - and better build.

Verdict

The Garmin is a decent little watch. It does feel bit fragile, but the Garmin Connect stats are sound, the GPS strong, and once paired with a solid ANT+ chest strap it punches far above its price bracket.

For runners who don't require endless techy extras, it's a great option. However, there's a spectre at this particular feast and it's the Polar M400, which is more robust, has Bluetooth and hence a mobile app on iOS and Android. Though, to be fair, n the other

Even so, for a beginner or a runner on a budget, the Garmin Forerunner 15 has everything you need, even if you may eventually enviously eyeing fuller-featured running watches.

***SYNDICATED*** Check out this ComputerMagazine.com Syndicated article at it's original source and read more HERE: http://www.techradar.com/reviews/wearables/garmin-forerunner-15-1303255/review?src=rss&attr=all * From: TechRadar: All latest feeds * Reposted by: Computer Magazine * --- Chris Swearingin, Editor-in-Chief

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