In the triathlon world, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT is popular among some of the most serious athletes—and for good reason. It’s powerful, accurate, and has just about every feature necessary to measure your output to improve performance. We’re huge fans here at ACTIVE, so when Garmin announced a new premium multisport watch with an emphasis on running, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it.
We put the Forerunner 935 to the test across a variety of workouts, and laid it all out here for you to make an informed decision about whether this multisport watch is right for you.
The first thing we noticed was how light the device is. Its featherweight build (only 49 grams), paired with the pliable silicone strap made for a comfortable and unrestricted experience. The buttons have a solid and satisfying click, and the higher resolution customizable watch face is clear and easy to read—even in direct sunlight. The best part? It doesn’t look like a multisport GPS watch (think Garmin’s Forerunner 920XT)—we’ve taken it out for drinks post-workout and nobody’s the wiser.
Wrist-Based Heart Rate and Activity Tracker
As with the FR735XT, you can leave your chest strap at home when using the FR935. The updated wrist-based optical heart rate monitor tracks your heart rate 24/7, so you can see trends over time, even when you sleep. The sensor now has a flusher profile and seemed more accurate than the optical HR sensor on the FR735XT.
Optical HR from other brands can be unreliable and inaccurate, but when compared to wearing a Garmin HR strap, the FR935 was astonishingly accurate—especially while running. Our HR strap may be permanently shelved from now on for daily training efforts.
You might expect GPS to be included in this device (and don’t worry, it is), but the FR935 is also an all-day activity tracker. Your step count and sleep patterns can then be uploaded to your Garmin Connect account, which is then analyzed for handy insights—for example, I learned that I’m prone to take less steps on Thursday. Who knew?!
The watch also alerts you when you’ve been sitting around for too long—I had to stand up and take a lap around the block twice over the course of writing this article. Talk about motivation.
GPS-based devices have generally had a tough go of it in the water as it relates to accuracy, and especially when recording in open water. We only tested the FR935 in pool mode, which uses the accelerometer to determine each time you hit the wall and make a turn (pro tip: push off the wall forcefully to ensure it registers). The unit not only tracks strokes, but also records pace, distance and personal records. We found it to be more accurate than most, and just as much at home in the water as on the bike or the run. Note that optical HR won’t capture in the water, so you’ll want to pair the FR935 with Garmin’s HRM swim strap for heart rate data. While it’s tough to get a baseline comparison, we found the FR935 performed well and had no connectivity issues with the HR strap.
Besides the usual sensor connectivity (see below), the FR935 tracks power zones, how long you’ve been in a seated or standing position, platform center offset and power phase. While that may be a different language for the large majority of age-group triathletes, these metrics can make a huge difference for those data-driven triathletes truly looking to gain a competitive edge. With power meters more affordable than ever, these features will have more of a demand throughout the triathlon scene in the coming months.
This is a new feature for Garmin—chest strap-free running metrics. When combined with the Running Dynamics Pod, six running dynamics (including ground contact time, stride length, cadence, etc.) can be displayed on the FR935 without the use of a heart rate strap. While designed for triathletes, the size and functionality of the FR935 is also perfect for pure runners.
We weren’t provided a Running Dynamics Pod when testing this unit, but as running is notoriously my weakest of the three disciplines, I can see how it would be valuable to receive instant feedback on my form and where to gain more efficiency. In case you’re a forgetful type, the FR935 even reminds you to unclip your running pod after you complete a workout—saving you from an expensive load of laundry.