The Garmin Forerunner family has long been a pretty great way to bring some science to your running. For the latest versions, what’s mostly not broke ain’t being fixed, but there are some neat-looking new features.
First up are the new Forerunner 230 and 235, the lower-end watches. The difference between the two is that the 235 uses an optical sensor in the watch to monitor heart rate, while the 230 needs to be paired with a more old-fashioned heart-rate strap.
Apart from that, both watches are pretty similar—and nearly identical to the Forerunner 220 and 225 that came before: simple, decent-looking GPS watches that sync to your phone to offer fitness tracking and smartwatch functionality. The biggest change this year is a 44 percent bigger color screen: it looks like Garmin’s slimmed down the bezel, which looks much better, and should make the watch easier to read when you’re starting to go cross-eyed from exhaustion.
The other interesting feature is one that’s trickled down from the higher-end 600-series Forerunner: VO2 Max estimation. Your VO2 Max is a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen. It’s an important number for anyone doing an endurance sport, but measuring it normally involves an awful treadmill test where you run until you puke.
By plugging information about your heart rate, running speed, age and weight into an algorithm, Garmin can not only estimate your VO2 Max, but also predict race times and give you recovery intervals after workouts. It’s not groundbreakingly critical information, but it’s a neat way to bring the more complicated side of sports science to more average runners.
If you live for stats, though, Garmin has an update to its higher-end Forerunners just for you. The 630 is getting the same bigger screen as its cheaper cousins, but with a much longer list of things to measure, ranging from actually-useful cadence measurements, to dubiously-useful stress estimation.
Otherwise, it’s really just the same Forerunner 620 that we know and love: Wi-Fi syncs your data whenever you come home, Bluetooth pairs with your smartphone for all sorts of smartwatch-esque functions, and the GPS will track your every move when you’re actually out running.
Both watches will start shipping in a range of colors before the end of the year. The Forerunner 230 costs $300 with the heart-rate strap, while the strapless $235 will run you $330. If you want the step up, the 630 will start at $400, or $450 with the more advanced foot-tracking pod.