Garmin’s high end GPS fitness watches such as the Forerunner 920XT and the Fenix 3 HR watches have always been a tad chunky for my liking. I welcomed the Forerunner 235 for its functions, lightweight-ness and sleek look so I was glad to see that the Forerunner 735XT ($449.99) looked near identical.
It’s not difficult to make a GPS fitness tracker that’s packed with features only MacGyver could use. The challenge is in making a powerful yet functional GPS fitness watch that still looks great. So many have tried, few have succeeded.The Forerunner 735XT is designed for the triathlete or those who participate in multi-sports. The selling feature, besides the svelte look, is really transition from one event to another with a single press of a button.
Garmin took the best of features in its arsenal and packed it in a smaller watch more palatable for those who can’t stomach the over sized watch look.
I had the watch for a few weeks now and here’s what I have to say.
- Triathlon features, multi-mode, switch event with single button press
- Plethora of activity profiles with option to customise and create more
- 24/7 fitness tracker. Tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep.
- Measure all day heart rate and heart rate during tracked activity sessions
- GPS+Glonass with UltraTrac
- Vibration and audio enabled for smart notifications, alarms, move alerts
- Expand and read messages on display
- Pick up phone calls only
- Heavily customisable in terms of display fields and usage within each activity profile
- Garmin Connect IQ compatible for apps and watch face downloads
- VO2 Max score, recovery advisor,race time predictor, stress, performance indicator, lactate threshold, functional threshold power
- Navigation functions
- Training functions such as intervals and Virtual racer and partner
- Water resistant to 5 ATM
- Sunlight readable colour screen with back light
- Up to 14 days battery life with smart notifications and all day heart rate turned on
- Multiple customisable widgets
- Create workouts, plan training on Garmin Connect web platform
- Compatible with Vector power meter for cycling
- ANT+ compatible
- No barometric altimeter
- No record of stress test or recovery HR tracked over time
Read on for more detailed review and pictures! Most of the photos were taken at Point Yamu by COMO.
LOOK AND FEEL
The Forerunner 735XT looks identical to the Forerunner 235 except it’s slightly smaller, has different optical heart rate sensors and has a few cosmetic additions.The watch has 5 buttons and no touch screen capability which is fantastic for a device that’s going to come in contact with sweat and moisture a lot.The sunlight readable screen performs outstandingly under bright sunlight and there’s also back light that illuminates the display adequately when the situation calls for it.
The watch is vibration enabled for silent alarms, move reminders, activity and smart notifications. There’s also a soft audio beep.Water resistance is rated at 5 ATM and there’s a Garmin FAQ here detailing what 5 ATM can do, this being a triathlon focused watch and all.
The Forerunner 735XT supposedly lasts up to 11 days in watch mode, including activity tracking, smart notifications and optical HR tracking. I was able to go about 8 days with 2 hours of tracked training sessions including GPS and heart rate monitoring.As far as I can recall, it definitely lasted longer than the Forerunner 235 which led me to believe Garmin used better batteries or a battery with larger capacity. Either way, charging once a week is something I can definitely live with.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
1) Heart rate measurement
The Forerunner 735XT has an in built optical HR sensor powered by Garmin’s Elevate tech. It can also receive HR readings transmitted by external HR monitoring devices via ANT+.
In terms of hardware, there’s definitely a difference between the Forerunner 735XT and the Forerunner 235. You can see from the picture below that the optical heart rate sensors differ on both devices.
A) Wrist based heart rate sensor
I compared the HR readings, in every second recording mode, of the Forerunner 735XT against that as recorded by a Polar H7 chest worn heart rate monitor connected to a Polar Beat mobile app.
Personally, I’m satisfied with the level of accuracy the Forerunner 735XT can provide for running based activities.
Next I put the Forerunner 735XT to the test of intervals on a stationary bike. This session would last about 30 minutes and include one minute intervals to push the HR up and down quickly.I personally thought the 735XT managed pretty well in the interval setting when pit against the heart rate measurements as recorded by Polar H7 chest strap HRM. There are minor hiccups but honestly it’s nothing I can’t live with really.
B) External HR monitors
When paired with the Garmin HRM-Run, you’ll be able to access advanced running metrics in real time. The running metrics are not available when using Garmin’s standard ANT+ chest strap HR monitor or 3rd party ANT+ optical HR monitors such as Scosche Rhythm+.Though the Forerunner 735XT is a triathlon focused watch, the optical heart rate sensors are rendered useless during swims so it’s in your best interest to invest in a HRM-Tri chest strap HR monitor. Both Garmin’s HRM-Run and HRM-Tri will set you back a cool $99 or $129.99.Yet this is the portion I’m most perplexed with. I would assume somebody wearing a HRM-Tri to record HR during the swim leg of a triathlon would naturally rely on the HR readings from the chest strap; it being more accurate and reliable than that from the optical HR sensors. That pretty much defeats the purpose of adding optical HR sensors to a triathlon focused watch in the first place.
C) All day heart rate measurement
In this mode, the Forerunner 735XT samples the heart rate once every 10 minutes. The lowest and highest HR measured in the day will be recorded within the Garmin Connect mobile app.
You can also see the HR trend for the last 4 hours on the watch itself. The highest HR measured in all day HR monitoring mode does not include the peak HR during a tracked activity session.This could be a glitch but I did notice the resting HR (RHR) on the watch differs from that as indicated in Garmin Connect mobile app. The measurement should be used as an estimation and nothing more. In all day mode, it is likely you’ll wear the watch loose compared to working out. I only turn on the all day HR monitoring when I go to sleep and turn it off upon waking up; it helps to conserve battery.
2) Activity profiles
The Forerunner 735XT is geared towards multisport athletes such as those who participate in triathlon, duathlon and so on. But fret not, the custom workout creator allows you to mix it up with the pre-installed sports profiles.
There are even options to create your own dedicated or multi-sports profiles which I’ll come to later.The pre-installed sports profiles include:
- Running (indoor/outdoor)
- Cycling (indoor/outdoor)
- Swimming (pool/open water)
- Cross-country skiing
- Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- Trail running
- Strength training
- Multisport (triathlon/ duathlon/ brick/ custom)
Within each profile, the user can further customise the number of stats to be displayed on the screen of the watch.
You can display up to 4 data screens with 4 data fields on each screen or you can simply settle for a single big stat.For example, you can have the SWOLF score appear when you’re tracking your swimming, stroke count when you’re rowing and pace when you’re running. It’s also possible to throw in a metronome function to the workouts so that you could be hitting a particular cadence.
It will take some time on your part to set the parameters to your liking. But once you do that, you can be assured of a seamless and near second nature exercise tracking experience.
I’ll just spend some time elaborating on new activity profiles and maybe a few standard ones.
In triathlon mode, the Forerunner 735XT allows the user to switch from one event (swim, bike, run) to another and even caters for transition time with a single press of a button. A final press of the button after the run leg will cease triathlon activity recording.
The events are then seperately listed within a single training event in the Garmin Connect app. The transition duration between each event is also individually listed.
B) Custom Multi-Sport
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was able to put the custom workouts to test. Verdict? It performed just the way I expected it to. The picture above lists two multi-sport profiles that I created and use.Here’s a screen grab of Garmin Connect workout summary of what a multi-sport workout record looks like. As you can see, there’s the option to further expand each “sport.” The transition duration between each event is stated as well.
In triathlon and multi-sport mode, the lap button takes on the role of transition to the next event function so it is no longer possible to manually set laps.Also there’s another issue to take note of. A single session of multi-sport activity with 4 events and 3 transitions count as 7 activities under a single “Multi-sport”session. If you further link your Garmin Connect to 3rd party apps such as Strava, you’ll notice that Strava clocks it as 7 seperate activities.When you review the tracked single multi sport session on the Forerunner 735XT, you’ll be able to access the summary of each event individually, transitions included.
C) Open water swim
This activity profile is usually reserved for the likes of Forerunner 920XT or the Fenix 3 series but is now available in a svelte looking Forerunner 735XT. Acess stats such as distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories in this tracking profile.There’s also a pool swim mode that allows the user to set the length of the pool and view data fields such as interval timer, stroke rate, pace and so on.
D) Indoor Runs
When running indoors without GPS, the Forerunner 735XT utilises the in built accelerometer to estimate the distance clocked. For this feature to work properly, the user must have clocked a few outdoor runs that uses the watch GPS.For me personally, the distance estimated running indoors is usually within 5% of the actual distance run based on the treadmill numbers. The photo above shows 5km ran. It was actually 5.2km on the treadmill.
3) Physiological Measurements
The Forerunner 735XT has got quite a few tricks up its sleeves when it comes to the physiological aspect of exercise. Stats that used to be accessible only in lab conditions can now be estimated right from your wrist.
On top of VO2 max , recovery advisor and race predictor which are present in the Forerunner 235, the Forerunner 735XT further adds stress, lactate threshold, functional threshold power and performance condition.
The estimates are provided by FirstBeat, the same company behind a lot of physiological measurements used by companies such as Suunto, Samsung and Garmin in this instance.
Over time I found the estimates acceptably reliable, especially the recovery advisor. My legs felt fresh when I followed the recommended rest duration.
A) Stress test
For this function, you’ll have to put on the chest strap heart rate monitor and stand still for 3 minutes. I have no idea why this test couldn’t be done sitting down or lying down but I’ll follow directions as indicated.What the stress test does is tell you if your body is ready for harder workouts. So if the reading is high, you probably want to rest or take it easy. If the reading is low, well you know what to do.
I’m curious how this reading correlates with that of the recovery advisor.
B) Lactate threshold estimation
A chest strap is required for lactate threshold measurement to take place. Once paired, the Forerunner 735XT will provide guidance by advising the user to keep the HR within a certain range for a set duration. For example, keeping the HR from 161 bpm to 170 bpm for 4 minutes.The test is expected to take 20-30 minutes and you’ll have to carry out the test outdoors as GPS is required.
C) Functional Threshold Power (FTP)
D) Performance condition
Midway a run, I did have this stat pop up on the Forerunner 735XT indicating that my performance is +7. According to Garmin, the number is my real time condition compared versus my average fitness level.
I can’t say much about the science behind this. The reason is because the single run where I experienced a “+” anything for performance was also the one I struggled and lagged way behind my average time.
This stat can also be added as a data field during tracked workout sessions.
E) Recovery advisor
After every workout, you can expect to have an estimate on the number of hours for the body to recover before the next serious workout right on the Forerunner 735XT.
F) VO2 max
Put simply, the VO2 max is a measurement of the body’s ability to consume oxygen. Needless to say, the fitter and better trained you are for the specific activity you’re executing the test on, the higher the VO2 max.In order to allow the Forerunner 735XT to estimate VO2max for cycling, a power meter and chest strap HRM are required.
G) Race predictor
The race predictor is based on the VO2 max estimate. As as long as your VO2 max estimate maintains at a particular range, the predicted race times are unlikely to change much.
4) All day activity tracking
The Forerunner 735 XT functions as an all day activity tracker that records your steps, distance, calories, sleep and resting heart rate (RHR).Garmin Connect app is the hub that collates and presents all the tracked stats. Navigation within the cap can be confusing due to the numerous charts and information.
5) Smart notifications
The Forerunner 735XT is not a full fledged smart watch like the Apple Watch or Android Wear. I would call it a dedicated GPS fitness wearable with smart notifications.When connected to compatible smart devices, the Forerunner 735XT is capable of displaying notifications from mobile apps, text messages and incoming calls.
Notifications can be easily accessed and expanded though lengthier messages will be truncated on the display.
Calls can be “picked up” but conversations must be carried out on the mobile phones.
Widgets on the Forerunner 735XT are basically shortcuts to tracked stats. It could be the number of steps or weather and so on. You access these widgets by scrolling up or down on the main display so it’s more for quick access rather than detailed analysis.
I’ll list a few of the standard ones which I found particularly useful.Step count for the day. A press of the button gives you access the the step count for the last 7 days. Green bar means you’ve hit your goal and blue bar means you didn’t.The day summary widget lists out all the essentials such as tracked workouts, steps, intensity minutes and calories burned.Brisk walking or tracked activity sessions all count towards the intensity minutes. The weekly goal is 150 minutes but with a device such as the Forerunner 735XT to motivate you, it shouldn’t be difficult to smash that 🙂Easily access the last sport tracked and view the duration you spend in each of the HR zone.There’s also the weather widget which pulls data from the connected mobile device.
7) GPS + GLONASS + UltraTrac
You’ll find both GPS+GLONASS capabilities in the Forerunner 735XT and you can opt to use one or the other. You can also choose to record your data in smart or every second mode.In UltraTrac mode, the GPS is switched off periodically to conserve battery. This mode is useful for extended tracking sessions when there is no access to juice up the battery.
Under the “Training” tab, there are a few options available to better your performance. The training tools are mostly geared towards distance based activities so running and biking comes to mind easily.
The watch allows you to upload your own created workouts via Garmin Connect Web. That’s where you can plan your training schedule as well.Couple of notable options such as intervals, train by target and even racing an activity are all customisable.
Specifically the “race an activity” option allows you to pick a tracked session from history or simply download a course and have a go at it. So you could be racing your own PB should you wish to.
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT now has navigation functions for outdoor use. Under the navigation tab, you can access downloaded course or save a particular location so that you may track back at a later time.
As of publication, the purchase of a Forerunner 735XT comes with 60 days of complimentary Strava Premium subscription.
The Strava suffer score connect IQ app is also pre-installed in the Forerunner 735XT watch so you can view it real time when you are working out.Two minutes after a GPS enabled run is stopped, you’ll be able to see your recovery heart rate on the screen. To have the recovery heart rate appear, stop tracking at the end of the activity, wait for the recovery HR to pop up, then save the session.The Forerunner 735XT keeps a record of your best performances be it fastest 1k, mile, 5k, longest run and so on. Seperate records are kept for running, cycling and swimming.
There are a few other icing on the cake functions that the Forerunner 735XT is capable of such as:
- Finding your phone if it’s misplaced but within Bluetooth connection range.
- Playing music on connected mobile devices.
- Remote for Garmin VIRB devices.
Lastly, have fun looking for the ideal watch face to reflect your personality on Garmin Connect IQ. There are very few critical widgets or apps in Garmin’s equivalent of app store for mobile devices.
However, watch faces are a different thing altogether. Gotta look good!
Long press of the “Up”button brings up a quick menu that allows the user to access music controls, clock options or simply to lock the device. This quick menu is non-customisable.
FORERUNNER 735XT IN A NUTSHELL
Truth be told, I had tremendous fun reviewing the Forerunner 735XT. It’s like a miniature Fenix 3 HR without a few goodies such as sapphire glass display, barometric altimeter and so on which I could do without but boy is it light weight. It wears like a Forerunner 235, a watch which I wore on a regular basis and only switched recently because the Forerunner 735XT is way superior.Running is just about my only form of exercise and that’s why the Forerunner 235 suited me to a T. Even then, I swapped over to the Forerunner 735XT after a week. Garmin has created a device that just about exceeded most of my expectations. Until the next big thing comes along of course.
As a runner and someone who dabbles in weekly cross training, I found the Forerunner 735XT’s physiological measurements and multi-sport profiles a boost to my fitness regime.I know there are many people out there who aren’t professional athletes but the purchase of a single piece of hardware can go a long way towards motivating them to stay fit. That’s how I felt with the Forerunner 735XT. It’s like buying a new running singlet or a new pair of running shoes, only way better.
I would strongly suggest you purchase either of the bundles.
You can purchase the Garmin Forerunner 735XT from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!