Garmin Forerunner 55 Review
Cons: Lacks premium health stats, shorter battery life
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Garmin Forerunner 55
$149.99 at REI
|$399 List||$300 List|
$300.00 at REI
|$230.90 at Amazon|
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$200.00 at REI
|Pros||Simple, inexpensive, lightweight||Good battery life, comfortable, easy to use, great value||Excellent quality, accurate, simple design, very easy to use, great feature set, very long battery life||Great design, responsive interface, inexpensive||Low profile design, great battery life, very accurate, low cost|
|Cons||Lacks premium health stats, shorter battery life||Lacks some toolset functions, scroll wheel has unintended clicks||Backlight isn't bright, heart rate monitor accuracy is a little off||Minimal navigation, shorter battery life, lack of tool widgets||Minimal activity profiles, no navigation features, plastic construction|
|Bottom Line||A basic GPS watch that will be perfect for those looking to track their activities without the advanced features of premium models or extended battery life||A fully-featured GPS watch at a great price makes this one of our top recommendations for all user types||A well-constructed and accurate watch with a minimalistic design, excellent battery life, and all the right features||A premium-looking watch with loads of features and health metrics for a great price||A fully functional and incredibly light GPS sports watch boasting great battery life at an incredible value|
|Rating Categories||Garmin Forerunner 55||Coros Apex Pro||Coros Apex||Polar Vantage M2||Coros Pace 2|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Ease of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Garmin Forerunner 55||Coros Apex Pro||Coros Apex||Polar Vantage M2||Coros Pace 2|
|Watch Face Material||Chemically strengthened glass||Sapphire glass||Sapphire glass||Hard-coated PMMA laminated lens||Corning glass|
|Bezel||Stainless steel||Titanium Alloy||Stainless steel bezel||Stainless steel||Fiber reinforced polymer|
|Case||Glass fibre reinforced polyamide||Alumnium||Alumnium||Glass fibre reinforced polyamide||Fiber reinforced polymer|
|Strap Material||Silicone||Silicon or nylon||Silicon or nylon||Silicone||Silicon or nylon|
|Tools Required to Change Band?||No||No||No||No||No|
|Size Tested||One size only||47mm||42mm||One size only||One size only|
|Measured Main Body Size (diameter)||42mm||47mm||42mm||46mm||43mm|
|Measured Screen Width||26.5mm||33mm||33mm||30mm||32mm|
|Measured Weight||1.31 oz||2.0 oz||1.7 oz||1.55 oz||1.2 oz|
|Measured Charging Time||111 min||80 min||70 min||78 min||80 min|
|Battery Type||Rechargable lithium ion||Rechargable lithium ion||Rechargable lithium ion||Rechargable lithium ion||Rechargable lithium ion|
|Measured Battery Life With GPS On||19 hours||36 hours||24 hours||38 hours||29 hours|
|Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life||Smartwatch mode: 2 weeks;
GPS: 20 hours
|Smartwatch mode: 30 days;
GPS mode: 40 hours;
UltraMax mode: 100 hours
|Smartwatch mode: 25 days;
Full GPS mode: 25 hours;
UltraMax GPS Mode: 80 hours
|GPS: 40 hours||Smartwatch mode: 20 days;
GPS: 30 hours;
Ultramax mode: 60 hours
|Navigation Built In?||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Satellite Networks Used||GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO||GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU||GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU||GPS, GLONASS||GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU|
|Maps?||No||Yes - basic||Yes - basic||No||No|
|Back to Start Navigation?||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Water Resistance (max depth)||50m||100m||100m||30m||50m|
|Daily Fitness Tracking?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Main Software App||Garmin Connect, widgets for other features||Coros App||Coros App||Polar Flow||Coros|
|Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Forerunner 55 focuses on providing great GPS watch features in a slim lightweight package. We are impressed with the value of this model given its size and offerings. It's clear that this model is a direct competitor to the Coros Pace 2 and we are glad that this pricepoint exists in the GPS watch market.
The light, small case size of the 55 is great for those with smaller wrists or those looking for a lightweight option. Whether this is your first GPS watch or one dedicated to running and races, we think that you should consider this model. Even being one of the cheapest watches we tested, this model still features a color screen, heart-rate monitor, and the same Garmin interface found on the more premium models.
This model has the least amount of features that we tested, and while it scores lower because of that, it doesn't mean it can't be for you. Even with its low price you still receive a heart rate monitor, color screen, and some basic health metrics. If you find yourself overwhelmed with features and just want to hit start we think this could be a perfect model.
- Heart rate monitor
- Assistance tool
- Several activity profiles
- Pedometer and calories burned
- Swimming features
- Sleep Metrics
Peek at the Garmin website to see the full scope of all the features offered.
We do wish this model had sleep metrics, even better would be some simple route navigation or bread-crumb maps, but at this price point that's a no-go. For more advanced navigation, a compass or altimeter is pretty crucial, neither of which is found in this model. But if you find yourself on a known path or aren't venturing far into the backcountry, the Forerunner 55 will fit the bill.
The battery life on this model is one of the shortest we tested, at a claimed 20 hours for standard GPS mode and up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode. This will of course change based on usage and the brightness level you choose. 20 hours of GPS recording should be plenty for the average user.
Battery life is a major selling point for the GPS watch market. If you would prefer to not charge your watch as often or if you see yourself approaching that 20-hour mark regularly, it's best to spend some extra money to increase battery performance. The Coros Pace 2 has a slightly better battery life at the same price point so that could be a consideration if you're hesitant to upgrade to a higher-end model.
Ease of Use
The Forerunner 55 has a more basic set of features than any of the watches we tested and therefore it's incredibly easy to use. The Garmin interface is incredibly user-friendly and fairly straightforward after you have a chance to learn their menu system. And if you're coming from another Garmin product, this one will be easy to dial in quickly.
We prefer the dedicated buttons on the Garmin models compared to the Coros counterparts. We find the scroll wheel at high outputs is difficult to handle precisely. If you rarely find yourself switching the data pages or if you use auto-scroll this could be less of a factor for you.
The Garmin Connect App feels a bit dated, but we had no issues syncing our workouts even with our test watches and phones connected to many watches at once. Unlike some of the more premium options, you cannot change data fields and settings via the app for the Forerunner 55.
The Forerunner 55 performed excellently when tasked with our 3-mile remote GPS test which compared all the models in our test group. The accuracy was +/- 0.01 miles, similar to the competition. Luckily today's GPS watches seem to be getting incredibly accurate thanks to their multi-satellite connection capabilities. For the best accuracy in technical terrain, the dual frequency modes found on the Garmin Fenix 7 and Coros Vertix 2 offer the best results.
We experienced accurate heart rate performance with the 55, something we found consistent across the Garmin line. We received just a 1-3 bpm difference at resting heart rate when compared to our heart rate monitor. For the best results, you should use a dedicated heart rate strap if this metric is super important to you. A good snug fit offers the best results and this watch being small fit our wrist nicely.
Due to the budget-friendly price, few premium materials are found on this model, which results in a fairly basic design. This is one of the smaller case sizes we tested so it's great for smaller wrists or those looking for the lightest design. The Forerunner series started being a running watch and those attributes are still found on it today. It's sleek, slim, and light; perfect for running.
The color screen is easy to read even while taking quick glances on the move and its five-button design makes navigation easy and efficient. For those looking for a dedicated everyday watch, you may want a more premium design but you will pay more for it. If this will be a purely dedicated activity watch we think this is a great choice.
Few watches on the market beat this in terms of value. The Coros Pace 2 has a slightly better battery life and more activity features, but they are nearly identical in performance and feature set other than that. We cannot recommend this watch enough if you are familiar with the Garmin ecosystem. The Forerunner 55 has all the essential features without the high-end features that can provide diminishing returns or are rarely used. If you don't need advanced mapping capabilities we highly recommend this watch.
If you are looking for the essentials and don't need mapping capabilities, check out this model. While there are not as many health statistics and features as the higher-end models, we are impressed with the sleek and lightweight design. The Garmin menu system and the interface are easy to use and will allow you to focus on what matters most during your activities. This watch is for users who want a smaller case size, basic GPS recording, and a heart rate monitor to track them throughout the day. If battery life, sleep metrics, and navigation are important to you we would suggest bumping up to the next price point. But if simplicity is what you are looking for we don't think you can go wrong with the Forerunner 55.
— Matthew Richardson
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