I grew up embracing my love for watches and, more recently, smartwatches. I remember the day I got the Casio F-91W, one of my first watches. I was fascinated by it. I wore it to school every single day. Later, I got into watches big-time - from spending all my savings on a Pebble Classic with its e-ink display to buying my first Apple Watch with full-blown fitness tracking, things have drastically shifted.
However, having used many smartwatches, including Asus’ ZenWatch 2, Samsung Galaxys of the world and even the first-gen Fossil Q, one smartwatch brand always eluded me - Garmin.
When Garmin reached out to me to review its Forerunner 255 Music, I had to say yes. I went into my review period with an open mind. I had read about runners who swear by their Garmins but I knew very little about the watch when I initially unboxed it. It was surprising to discover that the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music does not feature a touchscreen. And to be honest, getting used to the five-button navigation was uncomfortable initially, but boy, oh boy, I was in for a ride.
Hardware and Design: No more babying
I have the larger 46mm Forerunner 255 Music variant of the watch that retails for Rs 42,990 in India. Garmin also offers a smaller Forerunner 255S and 255S Music in India, with a 41mm case size.
The Garmin Forerunner 255 Music features a 1.3-inch sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display with a 160×160 resolution. Under the bright sun, the display remained easy to read, and I could go about my day and read notifications on the watch just fine.
One thing that stood out to me about the watch is its weight. At just 49g, the 255 Music is feather-light and coupled with the watch band’s superb breathability, the watch remains comfortable for prolonged periods, especially during sweaty workouts. Often, I’d forget the watch was even there.
Let’s address the elephant in the room - the five-button navigation system. During the initial few days of my testing, getting around various menus, workouts and changing watch faces was tedious. However, within a few days, I got used to it. Using it became second nature, and I get why the lack of a touchscreen may annoy a specific group of users. Still, I’ve grown to appreciate what many might call an ‘archaic’ way to use the watch.
Simply put, you need physical buttons when you are out in the wild, running marathons, diving, hiking and putting in that work. Need evidence? See the Apple Watch Ultra; while it may not have gotten rid of the touchscreen, the inclusion of the ‘Action Button’ solves a major gripe many divers have had with the Apple Watch.
The build, too, is fantastic. The housing feels like it is built to last, which it should, considering the physical abuse many Forerunner 255’s owners will put it through.
Overall, when it comes to hardware and design, there are just two minor niggles that stop the Forerunner 255 Music from scoring the perfect points: its vibration motor. It’s not pleasing, and while I realize the Apple Watch may have spoilt me, the haptics on Garmin Forerunner 255 Music leave much to be desired.
The second niggle is its charging. The Garmin Forerunner doesn’t feature wireless charging but comes with a proprietary connector that plugs into the bottom of the watch. While the lack of wireless charging isn’t a big deal, the proprietary connector and its placement are. After over one month of testing the watch, and wearing it in all kinds of conditions - riding my bike, cleaning my car, workouts, and whatnot, the charging port on the bottom of the watch is already full of grime. Fortunately, it is easy to clean, but it has become a necessary part of keeping the watch in good shape.
My Expectations from the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music changed rapidly
So yes, the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music is more of a running/fitness watch with a few smart features rather than a smartwatch with fitness features.
When I received the watch, I was already dealing with a long-withstanding back injury I sustained in the gym about two years ago. The injury got triggered again just days before I started to use the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music. What followed was me disciplining myself, and yes, the Forerunner 255 helped.
For starters, I love the Forerunner 255 for its Morning Report feature. Every day, when you wake up, the watch presents you with essential metrics like HRV (Heart Rate Variability), training readiness and sleep data in a concise and easy-to-understand manner. And yes, wearing the watch while sleeping is not inconvenient like other massive smartwatches. I found the smartwatch comfortable to wear all day, every day.
I’m no runner (Forerunner 255’s target market), far from it, but I enjoy lifting weights. Thanks to Garmin Forerunner 255’s workout tracking, I could effectively plan my workouts. Starting a workout activity is as simple as pressing the Start/Stop button on the top right and selecting your favourite activity. An immediately noticeable feature was customizable workouts I only knew I needed once I experienced Garmin.
Everything is customizable - the watch faces, Glances and even the Morning Report.
Regarding fitness tracking, it is tough to go wrong with Garmin. The fitness metrics were accurate and reasonably reliable. Garmin’s Elevate heart rate monitor is another precise tool to measure heart rate and activities that use it. However, sleep tracking needs to be more accurate. Once I slept around 6 hours, between 12:30 AM and 6:30 AM, but the watch thought I was asleep till about 6:45 AM.
So yes, you can expect the Forerunner 255 Music to perform well for all your fitness needs. It does have a few “smart" features like notifications, alerts, and access to the Garmin Connect IQ Store, but don’t expect to reply to texts, answer calls or any other smartwatch features you might have reckoned possible. Ergo, don’t buy the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music or, perhaps, most Garmin watches for being a smartwatch first, except the Venu Sq series.
Battery life is pure magic
Garmin claims that the Forerunner 255 Music last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 30 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode, and up to 6.5 hours in NSS mode with music.
It has been more than a month since I unboxed the watch, and since then, I’ve only had to charge it four times. It feels like I’m back to using a regular watch, with no charging anxiety at the end of the day. Using multi-band tracking mode does cause a hit to the battery life, but it isn’t significant enough to get worried. Expect a week or more of frequent activity tracking using the Forerunner 255.
I’m very impressed by the battery of the Forerunner 255 Music. S-tier, for sure. But yes, keep the charging cord handy because if you lose it, no other charger in your home will be able to charge it.
Verdict: Know your priorities because, here, fitness is king
As a whole, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music to anyone looking forward to buying a fitness-centric smartwatch, but that’s the catch here. The watch is ‘Fitness-centric.’
Simply put, do not buy the Forerunner 255 expecting to substitute smartwatches like the Apple Watches and the Samsung Galaxys of the world. Instead, consider it an indispensable tool for your fitness and athletic needs.
For Rs 42,990, you get incredible multi-day battery life, accurate workout tracking, and the best running smartwatch for the money. Also, the tank-like build quality, supremely comfortable and lightweight wearing experience and excellent sunlight legibility make for a refined experience that impresses as an overall package. The Garmin Forerunner 255 Music earns a solid recommendation from us and yes, it’s beyond refreshing!
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