Garmin’s new Forerunner 30 GPS Smartwatch – featuring the nav giant’s Elevate wrist-based heart rate monitor – gives you all the basic running metrics you need, at a price point you can afford.

If running is the only form of exercise that works for you, do you really need a high-end GPS sportswatch that comes with multiple sport profiles and a hefty price tag? Garmin doesn’t think so, and if you’re feeling a little cash-strapped this festive season, I’m sure you’ll wholeheartedly agree. To make this possible, what Garmin did was take their popular running watch, the Forerunner 35 (launched last year), and strip away all the fancy trimmings. The end result: Their new, simpler Forerunner 30 GPS Smartwatch. Essentially, what I means is you get to concentrate on working up a sweat while running, and the only pain you’ll likely get to feel is in your legs, not your pocket.

But just because the Forerunner 30 is a “stripped down” version of the FR35, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s an inferior device. It isn’t, not by a long shot. It still features more than enough bells and whistles for the average or newby runner to get their exercise groove on and accurately monitor their fitness stats.

“The simplicity of the Forerunner 30 means athletes can easily take their running to the next level – all they have to do is put the watch on and go,” explains Andrew Silver, Garmin EMEA Product Manager. “With a variety of built-in features, it is the perfect tool for runners who want to stay fit, stay connected and share their progress.”

Features at a glance

  • Monitors your heart rate 24/7 using Garmin’s Elevate wrist-based HR technology.
  • Built-in GPS tracks how far, how fast and where you run, walk or ride.
  • Includes VO2 Max estimate, a measurable indication of your aerobic performance so you can monitor your fitness level.
  • Connected features include basic smart notifications for calls and texts, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, plus the ability to track your runs with LiveTrack.
  • All-day activity monitoring counts steps and calories and reminds you when to move.
  • Move IQ feature automatically detects and classifies activities.
  • Battery life: up to 5 days in smartwatch mode; up to 8 hours in GPS mode.

Getting the basics right
Garmin was one of the first global tech companies to start playing the fitness metrics game. As a result, they have a pretty good take on what performance stats athletes from across the entire competitive spectrum require to up their game. Their tech is also robust and proven, making it one of the most trusted navigation and fitness brands operating in the outdoor space today. When placed in this context, it’s easy to see how the more simplistic Forerunner 30 – which gives runners just what they need, but not much else – is a pragmatic continuation of this legacy.

The design of the Garmin Forerunner 30 is identical to that of the FR35; a glass rectangle measuring 35.5 x 40.7 x 13.3mm, with a thick bezel surrounding its 23.5 x 23.4 mm sunlight-readable, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. On the sides you’ll find four buttons for navigating the menus; these are up, down, run, and previous screen.

And, while you can never describe its square screen as “fashionable”, it is none the less incredibly clear and boasts plenty of real estate for displaying all your metrics – an important consideration, especially when you’ve got sweat in your eyes and need to quickly glance at your device half way through your run. Plus its combination of icons, numbers and labels means you’re never left in any doubt regarding what you’re looking at. This makes the Forerunner 30 ideal for those trying to work in specific heart rate zones, or aiming for a specific pace per km, but don’t want to spend the entire run staring at their wrists.

Taking the Forerunner 30 out for a run
The moment you press the run mode button, the Forerunner 30 automatically starts monitoring stuff like your heart rate, cadence, pace, and VO2 Max (which gives you a real indication of your current fitness level). Then, once you’re done with your run it provides you with a breakdown of your performance, including your pace per km and any personal bests you may have achieved, along with your latest VO2 Max score.

The watch comes with three data pages, each with up to three data fields. And each page can be configured to best suit your needs. However, you have to dive into Garmin’s free Connect Mobile app to set them up (it can’t be done on the watch itself, as you could with the FR35). Your selectable fields include the following:

  • Distance
  • Timer
  • Pace (or Speed)
  • Heart Rate
  • Average Pace
  • Lap Distance
  • Lap Time
  • Lap Pace (or Speed)
  • Heart Rate Zones
  • Cadence
  • Calories
  • None

Other performance related features include auto lap, auto pause and manual lap capabilities. You can also easily change between Pace and Speed via the settings menu. And, although the FR30 doesn’t come with a dedicated bike mode, you can still use it to go for a ride. Here’s how it works: If you select run and then go riding, it’ll utilise Garmin’s Move IQ functionality to automatically change it to a ‘Bike’ workout when viewed later on Garmin Connect.

LiveTrack, on the other hand, lets you invite friends and loved ones to follow your runs on a map in real time – giving them some piece of mind, and you an extra layer of safety should something go wrong. And, speaking of staying in touch, when paired to a compatible smartphone (Android or iOS) its basic smartwatch functionality allows you to pick up texts and phone notifications right on your wrist.

You can also use the Forerunner 30 to control music playlists and Garmin VIRB action cameras. There’s also a handy Find My Phone feature. And as all your data is automatically uploaded to Garmin Connect, digging deeper into your personal stats when you have the time is a breeze.

Getting the most out of your data
You can check out your performance and fitness data on the Forerunner 30 itself, but to get a really detailed low-down on your progress you need to log into Garmin Connect. You can also join fitness challenges with others online, set and track goals and much more.

Finally, like all Garmin sportswatches, the Forerunner 30 features activity tracking functionality, which can be monitored and tracked via the app too. This includes steps, calories, distance, sleep and intensity minutes, not to mention 24/7 heart rate monitoring. It also watches out for periods of inactivity and gives you vibration alerts when it’s time to move, preventing you from sitting in one position for too long. Plus Move IQ functionality automatically detects when you start an activity and classifies it as a walk, run or ride. – (c) 2017 NavWorld

Garmin Forerunner 30 specifications:

Lens material: Chemically strengthened glass
Display type: Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Interface: Buttons
Weight: 37.3 grams
Water rating: 5 ATM
Battery life: Smart mode: Up to 5 days; GPS mode: Up to 8 hours

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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