Garmin Forerunner 630 review: The fitness watch for serious runners

Price when reviewed

Garmin has kept us waiting patiently since it was first announced, but the Forerunner 630 has finally arrived. As Garmin’s top-flight running-specific watch, it’s designed to push keen runners to new heights, personal bests and provide a wealth of ultra-detailed performance data that other mere fitness trackers can only dream of. Oh, and it’ll ping your Facebook updates to your wrist, too. The only downside? It costs as much as three pairs of (very nice) running shoes.

Garmin Forerunner 630 review: The fitness watch for serious runners

The Forerunner 630 looks like it means business. Where the jack-of-all-trades Garmin Vivoactive opts for a simple, low-profile design, the Forerunner 630 is every bit the burly sports watch. It feels much tougher and sturdier than most fitness trackers I’ve encountered, and the thick rubber strap also feels built to last. It’s much thicker and stronger than the plain silicone band on the Vivoactive I wear every day. It isn’t heavy, though, weighing only 44g and, as it’s also waterproof down to 50 metres, you don’t have to worry about getting soaked.

One of the big upgrades over Garmin’s more affordable Forerunner 230 and 235 running watches is that the 630 adds a bright touchscreen to the mix. This isn’t as responsive as the touchscreens you’ll find on most smartwatches, or many other fitness trackers, but even that has its benefits. It takes a little more pressure to react to each touch, but it works with gloves and even when the screen is wet, which is incredibly handy when you have to drag yourself out to train in the depths of British winter.  

The Forerunner 630’s circular display is just a tad larger than that of the Vivoactive’s, and it uses the same reflective, low-power colour display technology, meaning it’s incredibly clear in daylight. The flip side is that at night, or dark conditions, you need to activate the front light with a button to make it legible, but this isn’t much of a problem.  

And it pays huge dividends for battery life, with Garmin claiming up to 16 hours of GPS-enabled training and as much as four weeks in “Watch” mode. If 16 hours isn’t enough, however, the addition of UltraTrac GPS tracking promises to push battery life even further. This periodically turns off the GPS and uses the watch’s accelerometer to calculate running speed and distance covered. Nifty.

When the Forerunner 630 does finally run out of battery, there are no clever wireless charging features to get excited about. Instead, Garmin has dreamt up yet another proprietary charging cable, something it seems to do with unerring regularity, which clips to the side of the device.

Garmin sent us the Forerunner 630 bundle which includes the new HRM-RUN v2 heart-rate chest strap in the box. This adds a few handy features (more on which shortly) to that of the original strap, but bear in mind that you don’t need to splash out if you already have a v1 Garmin strap. It’s possible to update the firmware on the v1 by connecting it to one of the newer devices, such as the Forerunner 630, and save yourself around £40 in the process.

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