Garmin’s Forerunner 935 multi sports watch is like a Mini with a V8 engine. It boasts a slick design, super-light chassis, powerful engine and offers the best technology available today. It also has its own distinct look, but inside it has the same electronics as the Garmin Fenix 5. So the question is, what does it offer that’s different, or better than the Fenix 5? After a few weeks of rigorous use, I got some first-hand insight into its uniqueness. And once again, at the risk of sounding like a salesman, the news is very positive. Here goes…

While singing the Garmin Forerunner 935’s praises, I won’t start by comparing it to the Fenix 5, but rather the Forerunner 735XT, which I believe represents its true bloodline. The 735XT was introduced as a very light and compact watch for those who wanted, well, a very light and compact multisport watch! I used the 735XT extensively when racing because it offered a totally unobtrusive presence, but it did have its cons in some respects. The absence of barometric elevation, the 14-hour battery life, no Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as missing some luxuries in the short cuts department all counted against it.

To give you an idea, during Ironman SA 2017 my 735XT shut down at about 10 hours 45 minutes. In its defence, I did have a Stryd run power meter connected which probably helped drain the battery faster. Still, even at its best, the 735XT requires you to finish Ironman in under 14 hours. And in terms of short cuts, locking the watch could only be done with three button presses, as opposed to one press with the Fenix 3.

The new Garmin Forerunner 935 (Tri-Bundle also available) is a perfect upgrade from the 735XT if you’re in the market for a no bling, super efficient, light weight race watch. With the same engine under the hood as the Fenix 5, the battery is specified to last up to 24 hours in GPS mode, and up to 50 hours in ultra-track mode. Take note that it outlasts the Fenix 5X, Garmin’s flagship sports watch, which only has a 20 hour battery time. The reason for this is because the 5X is the only watch with real maps – which requires more processing power. It also needs to be mentioned that the battery life of the Fenix 5S is still 14 hours, like the 735 XT.

A great multisport watch to run with
Many people have asked me if I’ve used Forerunner 935XT yet. I politely tell them no, I have not and never will – because it doesn’t exist. This raises the question: Why has the XT been dropped? After all, its predecessors were all called 910XT, 920XT and 735XT. By all accounts, Garmin dropped the “XT” and stuck with just “935” because runners separated themselves from anything XT, mainly because it signified multisport – and do-or-die runners only buy dedicated running watches.

However, the Forerunner 935, courtesy of its superior navigational, road running and trail running functionality, is also a great runners-only watch. Plus if any runner did ever want to enter the worlds of cycling, swimming, triathlon, or any other sport, this watch will deliver the goods. The way I see it, the 935 could almost be described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But it’s a good wolf, not a bad wolf.

Weighing a mere 49 grams, the Garmin 935 is almost half the weight of the Fenix 5 which weighs 84 grams. With the same engine as the Fenix 5 (but costing about R1 500 less), it has no down sides in terms of race functionality. That said, there are some technical differences which have pros and cons. For example, the 935 doesn’t have the option of the “more” scratch resistant Sapphire screen. Personally, this didn’t bother me at all – I just stuck on a screen cover, which allowed me to go ballistic with it. Getting your screen scratched can happen at any time, fortunately, a screen cover eliminates that worry.

Other benefits of the 935
A nice upside of the 935 is that it has Wi-Fi, as opposed to the regular Fenix 5 which doesn’t. Only the Fenix 5 Sapphire models come with Wi-Fi. Then again, the 935 has the option of a quick release mounting system, which the Fenix 5 doesn’t have either. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a bracket system which allows you to unclip the watch from your arm after the swim, clip it to a similar bracket onto your bike and back onto your arm again during a triathlon. On the flip side, the Fenix 5 comes with a QuickFit strap, whereas the 935 ships with a regular strap that fits with a pin and screws. You can, however, use QuickFit straps on the 935 but you’ll have to purchase a set separately.

The Forerunner 935 is also the first Garmin watch that comes pre-loaded with a Training Peaks App. This means your Training Peaks training program gets downloaded to your watch – guiding you through training sessions like any other pre-programmed workouts from your wrist. It’s quite astounding and a great tool for coaching. It’s worth noting that this app can now be downloaded to the Fenix 5 range too.

The Forerunner 935 Tri-Bundle comes with all the accessories you need to master your next triathlon.

As you can see, the differences between the two watches are cosmetic. The interface, shortcuts, everything is the same. I’ve put the 935 through rigorous paces, from the coldest, roughest sea swims, to interval based running and mountain biking, and a good dose of steady state endurance activities like a few 22 km runs. The strap is very stretchy which allows for a very tight fit without “strangling” your wrist. The minimal bobbing and vibration of the watch allow for the smooth, “unspiked” wrist based heart rate reading the 735XT is famous for.

Another thing the Forerunner 735XT lacked was a temperature reading. However, with the 935 I score bragging rights whenever I brave the icy Atlantic ocean – because now I can show my peers the exact sub-zero conditions I survived. The 935 also offers all the latest tech but stays as unobtrusive as the 735XT. Unless I need real maps to navigate me through an activity, the 935 will be my go-to watch from now on. If you prefer the dress-watch character of the Fenix 5, then that’s your choice, but bear in mind it’ll cost more.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty
Now for the practicalities. The Forerunner 935 can do everything but make you toast. If you’re familiar with the evolution of Garmin multisport watches through the years – and especially the functions of the latest Fenix 5 – you would know. For the uninitiated, it would be fair to do a “tip of the ice berg” presentation of its many virtues.

First up, if you intend wearing it 24/7, it’ll be an awesome activity tracker, day in, day out. It measures sleep patterns, steps, continuous heart rate, calories, intensity minutes, features MoveIQ and much more. MoveIQ means the watch knows when you run, cycle or swim – even when you don’t record it as an activity. Clever accelerometer tech figures all that out for you automatically.

The 935 is also well endowed on the smartwatch front. It caters for incoming caller ID and answering, messages, social media, music controlling, and more. And when it comes to what it’s really built for,  sport, it excels. Pool and open water swimming, cycling and running in all forms, triathlon, skiing, golf, skiing, hiking, canoeing and a bag of other sports are covered.

The 935 can also be customised with downloadable apps from the Garmin Connect IQ store. Watch faces, apps and data fields can be added to no end. You can even design your own. As a navigational tool, it walks tall. Only the Fenix 5X has the edge on it with real maps. However, if you add the DWMaps app, you can even bridge the gap to real maps, too. In principle, if you can conceptualise a function you would require for tracking any fitness oriented sports activity, chances are 99 percent that the 935 will be able to do it. To get the whole picture, Google the manual and familiarise yourself. But be warned, not even Garmin’s online manual digs as deep as it could have.

You can check out this previous Navworld article on the Forerunner 935 for another concise, but clear description of its many sophisticated functions. For the more technically minded, I’ve also added an outlay of the improvements and additions as listed by arguably the world’s best reviewer, DC Rainmaker, at the bottom of this article.

From left to right: fēnix 5S, fēnix 5, fēnix 5x, Forerunner 935

To sum it all up: Because of its size and weight, the 935 will be my race watch from now on. The Fenix 5X ticks the extra box of real maps and has a cool bling factor, but on race day I like to keep things as minimalistic as possible. That the battery time will outlast any one-day endurance event is a massive plus. It connects to any ANT and Bluetooth gadget and works with any third party app. I also found its wrist heart rate recording stable and realistic. Overall the Forerunner 935 offers peace of mind, and that counts a lot, especially on race day. Get your hands on a Garmin Forerunner 935. You won’t be dissapointed. – (c) 2017 NavWorld

Garmin Forerunner 935 improvements and additions
Compiled by DC Rainmaker. Check out his in-depth review here.

Barometric Altimeter: Added it, 735XT didn’t have it and only had GPS-based elevation
WiFi: Added it to 935, 735XT didn’t have it, and only half of Fenix 5 series has it
Display: Up to 240×240 pixels, same as the Fenix 5
Display: Went from 16 colours on the FR735XT to 64 colours on the FR935
Display: Now supports Emoji, right to left languages (Arabic and Hebrew)
Charging Cable: Identical to Fenix 5 series, can charge mid-activity, but wrist blocks it a bit
Connect IQ: Fully supports CIQ 2.2.3+, as well as a full 2MB for apps or 32 installed CIQ apps/items, whichever comes first.
Battery: Increased battery life up to 24 hours in GPS at 1-second sampling
Battery: Increased UltraTrac battery life to 50 hours
Gyroscope: Added Gyroscope to all models, used to increase track points in UltraTrac mode
User Interface: Slight tweaks to UI to match Fenix 5/Chronos series
User Interface: Added new quick access controls menu, to access apps/widgets, to match Fenix 5 series.
Strava: Added Strava Live Segment support for Bike & Run
Sensors: Added support for Bluetooth Smart sensors (Cycling Power/Speed/Cadence, Running Footpod, Heart Rate)
Sensors: Added Varia Vision Heads Up Display Support (all ANT+ remote displays technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Lights (all ANT+ lights technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Radar
Sensors: Added Shimano Di2 Shifting, ANT+ Gear Shifting Support (SRAM RED eTAP & Campagnolo EPS)
Sensors: Added ANT+ Muscle Oxygen Sensors (MOXY/BSX)
Optical HR Sensor: Revamped tech, now records 24×7 data every 1-2 seconds
Optical HR Sensor: Flattened out even more, virtually flush with back of unit
Training Data: Added FTP Estimation for cycling
Training Data: Now supports swimming PR’s (along with previously added Swim Structured Workout support), like the FR735XT/Fenix5, but unlike some older tri watches
Live Group Tracking: Added like the Fenix 5 models, à la the Edge 820 group tracking
Straps: Compatible with the QuickFit straps, specifically the Garmin Fenix 5 ones (not the 5S/5X), such as leather/metal/etc…
Golf: Added TruSwing, Greenview, and Autoshot features
Other Sports Added: Mountain Biking, Treadmill and Indoor Track separated, Ski and Snowboard separated, Navigate app, and Track Me app
Navigation Functions: Full navigation identical to that of the Fenix 5 series. That includes things like proximity and navigation alerts (for distance to waypoint, and time/distance remaining to destination). Note, there are no maps like the Fenix 5X units

About The Author

Frank Smuts is a triathlete and writer at

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One Response

  1. Sam

    Awesome review. Loved the comparisons with the 735Xt and Fenix 5 ranges. Which would you choose between this watch and the recently released Polar Vantage V? I like both, and so hard to choose.


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