Garmin Forerunner 15 review

Running tech going cheap

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Our Verdict

For a lot of runners - newcomers and those on a budget - this will be a really great choice. It's not flash but it does have a lot of power for its price.

For

  • Low price for a GPS running watch
  • Rapid and accurate GPS
  • Garmin Connect offers DEEP analysis
  • Good battery life

Against

  • No Bluetooth means no mobile sync
  • Fairly flimsy build and basic screen
  • Polar M400 is almost as cheap, even better

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is Garmin's second cheapest running watch, and the cheapest to support heart rate tracking. Shop around and you'll find it for under £100/$100 (or about £20/$20 more with a heart rate strap), which is about half the price of the Garmin Forerunner 225.

It's also less than some fitness trackers that do little more than tell you that you've walked for 10,000 steps and then had a sleep. And while it doesn't do sleep tracking, it does have step- and activity-monitoring in its, admittedly limited, feature set.

With GPS, external HR strap support and the redoubtable powers of the Garmin Connect online platform, the Garmin Forerunner 15 looks a tempting deal, especially if you're on a budget or just starting out as a runner. So how does it shape up?

Battery life and screen

Garmin Forerunner 15 charging socket

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is a simple device on the outside, and the screen is a study in cloth-cutting, being an old school, black and white, LCD dot matrix affair.

However, it's clear enough, and Garmin has cunningly restricted the amount of info that is shown at any one time, to make the most of the limited screen real estate. There's a hollowness to the screen when tapped that's not very premium, but then the Forerunner 15 isn't sold at a premium price.

One very beneficial side effect of the lo-fi screen is that the battery life is an epic five weeks as an activity tracker and watch, and a respectable eight hours of proper run tracking with GPS.

The tiny battery indicator visible on the left of the screen at all times is a nice touch, too, though as ever with Garmin, I could have done without the proprietary desktop charging clasp thing. I've seen worse chargers, mind - at least this is a simple system to hook up correctly, with the watch clicking into place positively.

Build, design and comfort

The build quality is pretty decent on the Garmin Forerunner 15, in spite of its price point, and it's waterproof to 40m. I tested it in the pouring summer rain on several occasions, and along with a few rinses under the tap it's kept ticking along nicely.

Garmin Forerunner 15 strap

The strap is a standard buckle clasp, although worth mentioning there are two sizes - one 'mens' and one 'womens'. We landed the 'womens' strap, and it's certainly on the slim side.

There's a range of colourways to tempt either sex, but overall it's a workmanlike, sporting design package. The buttons are easily operated on the move, and once you've silenced the hundred and one alerts and tones in the menu, it's a decent experience.