Garmin Forerunner 235 or Fitbit Charge HR?

Summary: I love my Garmin Forerunner 235, but I don’t know that I will get another Garmin when the time comes.

Major cons: When all of your friends have a Fitbit and you cannot participate in step challenges anymore.

Major pros: Basically everything else.


I think I got a much better bang for my buck with my Forerunner than I had with my Charge HR. I have only had the Forerunner for a week now so we will see if I am singing the same song in 6 months. However, I can say that with the amount of superglue that was applied to my Fitbit in approximately one year, I think I’ll be happy with this. The other advantage this time around was that I purchased the protection plan with Best Buy so I am a lot less worried about what I am going to do if and when this watch kicks it.

TurboFire workout tracking

Activity Tracking

For the first four days with my Garmin I wore both it and my Fitbit. I started with the Fitbit on my non-dominant hand for two days and then switched it to the dominant arm for the other two days. I noticed that it didn’t matter which wrist I had the Fitbit and Garmin on, the Fitbit was constantly recording a higher step count than the Garmin. I did figure out mid-way through full day two that clapping and hand motions really trigger the Fitbit and do not affect the Garmin. I then tested this theory after I swapped wrists and found the same was true. So Garmin has a lower tendency to falsely count steps. Also, the move reminders work far better than the Fitbit “250 steps per hour” at making me feel like I need to be moving (I do realize newer Fitbit’s have move alerts as well).

The built in profiles on the Forerunner are also great. I am currently training for a race, which is why I purchased the Garmin to begin with. But as a lover of my Beachbody On Demand All Access Pass subscription, I wanted a fitness tracker that could track my at-home workouts as well. Head to head comparison showed that the Garmin and the Fitbit were almost identical for activity tracking as long as they were in stopwatch mode. The same was true for run tracking.

Here is where Garmin excels: the GPS tracking. I compared Garmin to Runkeeper and found that distance is almost exactly the same (Garmin was a little lower than Runkeeper in some cases, but not enough to throw anything off). Plus it was really convenient and far less distracting to check my progress by turning my wrist than by unlocking my phone. This was a large part of the reason I purchased my Garmin and I am pleased that the performance lived up to the hype.

Sleep Tracking

I like the Fitbit breakdown of sleep tracking far better than the Garmin analysis, however, I found them to be very similar. Sleep tracking is not a large reason why I use my activity trackers, although I do like having an idea of how long and how well I slept, particularly on those sluggish days. It is nice being able to look back and see if I feel tired because I had a poor night’s sleep or if there is something else going on (e.g. Stress). It makes me more aware of what is going on with my body, which is exactly what an activity tracker should do.

Run summary after an outdoor run using GPS

Other Notes

The Forerunner is a smart watch, which means that I can get notifications right to my wrist. I tried it, but I really couldn’t get on board with it. It would then seem like I paid a lot of money for a watch that I am not using large features of to which I say: true. However, I also paid for the GPS and the heart rate tracking which I think work amazingly well on this watch, so I cannot complain.

I also really like the fitness analysis I get of my performance. I get compared to other women in my age group and even though I had a fairly accurate idea of where my fitness levels were, I now have an even better idea and what I am working towards. My main goal right now is my resting heart rate. At the beginning of the year I said I wanted to get it to stay under 70, which would be a first for my life. The way Garmin does resting heart rate seems to be based on an average throughout the day, so it is reporting higher values than my Fitbit was. However, the Garmin also gives a daily heart rate range (right on the watch) and a 7-day average. I am very pleased with the 7-day graph (more so than when I look at the daily value each day) so I think I am taking strides (pun intended) towards my goal. Holy parentheses in this paragraph.

If you are a runner or a cyclist, I definitely recommend getting a Garmin watch over a Fitbit if you want the activity tracking features to excel. I also highly recommend it because it gives you a breakdown of how you are reallydoing, which I don’t feel like Fitbit does. I also feel obligated to mention that in my Google searches comparing the products before upgrading to the Forerunner, and trying to figure out how it works and how it compares to my Fitbit, I now have a lot of suggestions on Google for articles about “why your Fitbit sucks,” or “why the company is going down.” I truly believe that if Fitbit wants to remain a competitor, there needs to be more change in the near future.


Published by She Got The PhD

A web-based soapbox of an Assistant Professor of color in Chemical Engineering; sharing my feelings on books, academia, and current events. I hope you enjoy reading :)

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