Reviews

Garmin Forerunner 35 – Runner Focused GPS Watch – User Review

October 22, 2016

Garmin’s latest Forerunner 35 blurs the distinction between higher end and entry level fitness devices. This might be Garmin’s latest experiment in sussing out a finicky the market; roll out a fitness tracker with some premium features at mid level prices targeted at entry level users.

In my opinion, it’s a good strategy what they have done with the Forerunner 35. I had the runner focused GPS watch for a while now and here’s what I have to say.forerunner-35-feature-1

Forerunner 35 IN SHORT

Pros:

  • All day activity tracking. Counts steps, distance, calories, active minutes, resting HR, sleep
  • Wrist based optical heart rate sensors
  • GPS, accelerometer based distance estimation for indoor runs without GPS
  • Sunlight readable display with back light
  • Vibration and audio enabled for alerts, alerts and smart notifications
  • Broadcasts heart rate readings during workouts to compatible devices such as VIRB cameras
  • Water resistant to 5 ATM
  • Up to 9 days battery life span in watch mode and up to 13 hours in workout mode
  • Running focused features such as virtual pacer, intervals, and run/walk
  • Auto pause, auto lap, manual lap
  • Customisaable data fields
  • Weather information
  • ANT+ compatible with other sensors
  • Move IQ enabled
  • Every second recording

Cons:

  • No Connect IQ access
  • No swim tracking

As usual, I’d suggest you brew a cup of coffee or tea, sip slowly as you read through the user review and enjoy the pictures. Drop me a note if there are any queries you may have which I didn’t manage to answer.

LOOK AND FEEL

forerunner-35-feature-6Garmin’s Forerunner 35 is ridiculously light at a mere 35g. It is also small in appearance and suits me to a T since my wrist is merely 6 inches in circumference.forerunner-35-buttonsThere are a total of 4 physical buttons and the display is not touch enabled. There are no “Up” buttons and only a single “Down” button that toggles through the options.

This will take getting used to. The other 3 buttons activates the back light and functions as a “Back” or “Start/Enter” button.forerunner-35-feature-2Display will more than suffice under bright sunlight while a back light provides illumination for visibility at night.

There are no user accessible brightness settings unlike the Vivosmart HR+ or the Vivoactive HR series of trackers. But you have my assurance, visibility under low lights is fine.

The strap is pretty elastic and will do well for strapping the Forerunner 35 snugly to the wrist when the optical HR sensors kick in.

The wrist straps appears to be attached to the GPS watch via screws which might suggest changeability but Garmin is not offering the sale of the wrist bands. I’ll confirm this again.forerunner-35-hrmThe OHR sits nicely on the back of the watch with a mildly protruding design which serves the purpose of ensuring the emitted light receives good HR readings without a gasket. The optical HR sensors appear identical to those found on the Forerunner 735 XT.

Charging pins line one side of the watch and the charging cable is identical to the one used by the newer line of Forerunner series such as the 230, 235, 630, 735XT. The streamlining of charging cables is much appreciated.



If I have one complain, it’s that the device looks and feels flimsy. I’ve had multiple Garmin devices but the Forerunner 35 is the first I own to not have any Garmin description on the back of the watch; just a QR code.

Also the plastic-feeling body had me worried if it will hold up if dropped from height.forerunner-35-move-barBattery life is listed as up to 9 days in watch mode and up to 13 hours in training mode. I managed a little more than 7 days and never managed to hit 13 hours continuously in training mode. How long the battery lasts is dependent on your pattern of usage; if you have a lot of incoming messages that activates the vibration, then you’re likely to see shorter battery life span.

The Forerunner 35 is also has a 5 ATM water rating even though there’s no swim tracking profile.

FUNCTIONS

Heart rate monitoring

First up, a comparison with my trusty Polar H7 chest strap HR monitor during a constant paced run. forerunner-35-vs-h7-hr-graphOther than a single obvious dip that happened around the 5 minutes mark, I personally thought the runner focused Forerunner 35’s heart rate monitoring performance is superb.

One other thing to note, heart rate measurements and recording of information on the Forerunner 35 is set to “every second”mode. This is unlike the smart mode usually found in the Vivosmart HR, Vivosmart HR+ and Vivoactive HR devices.

GPS enabled functions

forerunner-outdoor-gps-modes-and-gps-signal-waitingThe Forerunner 35 is first and foremost a runner focused GPS fitness watch. You won’t get the multi-sport modes associated with the Fenix 3 HR or Forerunner 735XT series. What you get are 5 activity profiles including run indoors/outdoors, walk, bike and the cursory cardio.forerunner-35-gps-signal-and-hr-signalWhen GPS enabled activity profiles are used, you’ll have to wait for the GPS signal to lock on. When it comes to outdoor workouts, I found the Forerunner 35 slow to lock on to GPS signals, especially in congested Singapore where the the jungle is concrete in nature.

Stand next to multiple tall buildings (HDB) and you’re likely to see slow GPS lock time. Moving to a spacious area will usually solve this issue.

Non GPS enabled functions

There are only 2 activity profiles that fall under this category; running indoors and cardio.forerunner-35-non-gps-workoutsWhen running indoors, such as on a treadmill, the distance can be estimated by the Forerunner 35 based on the in device accelerometer. The initial estimation is likely to be off by a significant margin but a few GPS enabled runs outdoors should fine tune this estimation over time.forerunner-35-cardio-workouts-and-strengthIf there are any other workouts you engage in which are not present in the activity profile range of the Forerunner 35, putting it under cardio would normally suffice. I’m referring to events such as Zumba, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or maybe even strength training.


Running specific functions

There are a few staple running training functions which loyal fans of the Forerunner series will appreciate.

  • Virtual Pacer: Set a pace to run to and see your current progress on the display versus the set pace.
  • Run/Walk: Set run duration followed by walk duration.
  • Intervals: Set distance to run followed by rest and the number of intervals.

forerunner-35-run-mode-and-alert-selectionThese are all functions of the Forerunner 35 which you may employ at various stages of your training to either spruce things up a bit or push yourself towards that personal best!

Alerts

Also you can set alerts in each of the profiles. For example, you might want to be alerted when you’ve worked out for a specific time or when a particular distance is hit. A message will appear on screen followed by vibration or audio alert if it is enabled.

Smart notifications and weather

forerunner-35-smart-notificationsWhen enabled, expect notifications from mobile apps to pop up on the display. There’s also the option of disabling smart notifications during workouts.forerunner-35-weatherWeather information can also be shown right on the display. The data is pulled from the connected mobile device. In order for this to take place. Garmin Connect app must be open or left open in the background.

All day activity tracker

forerunner-35-available-faces-to-viewTrack your step count, calories burned, resting heart rate, distance, active minutes and sleep right from the Forerunner 35.

You can manually set step count goals or allow the Forerunner to tweak your step count based on your step trend to date. As an all day activity tracker, I’ve always been impressed by Garmin’s line of products. They get the job done without much fanfare.


All day heart rate tracking

Like most other Garmin fitness trackers that are endowed with optical heart rate sensors, all day heart rate tracking is a key feature which a lot of users expect. Users can also access the resting HR readings for the last 4 hours right from the Forerunner 35 watch.forerunner-35-all-day-hrI would use these readings purely as an estimate since most people are likely to wear the devices loosely when not engaged in workouts.

Heart rate readings can also be broadcast during workouts to compatible Garmin devices such as VIRB cameras.

DATA PRESENTATION

garmin-connect-steps-and-sleepGarmin Connect mobile app is a capable platform that displays all the tracked stats from on the connect mobile devices. Be it all day activity tracking or dedicated workouts, you can access everything bit of information within the app.garmin-connect-running-stats-for-forerunner-35If that still doesn’t satisfy the statistician in you, there’s always the Garmin Connect web platform and other 3rd party platforms.

ANYTHING ELSE?

forerunner-35-last-activityLast activity: Quickly access the last activity right on the Forerunner 35.forerunner-35-historyHistory: Access the training summary of the last 7 activities right from the Garmin Forerunner 35 device.

Alarm, Do not disturb: With the vibration, you can set alarms to wake up to or be notified when smart notifications come in. Also there’s a  convenient “Do not disturb”mode which is easily accessible on the watch itself.find-my-phone-forerunner-35Find my phone: Not a  feature I use or need to use on a regular basis. When activated, it causes the misplaced mobile device to ring provided it is within Bluetooth range. The ringing will continue even if the mobile device is left on silent or do not disturb mode.

Garmin Connect mobile app MUST be open in your mobile device otherwise the “find my phone”function cannot be activated. forerunner-35-watch-faces-22 customisable watch faces: The Forerunner 35 has no access to Connect IQ, Garmin’s equivalent of Google Play store and Apple’s App store, so the user can only choose from an analog or digital display.forerunner-35-sensorsANT+ compatible:  Connect ANT+ enabled sensors like heart rate monitors, bike speed sensor and cadence sensors, foot pod to enhance the user experience during workouts.garmin-connect-iq-on-forerunner-35Move IQ: Move IQ is Garmin’s attempt at allowing its devices to automatically recognise the user’s activities and log it in the timeline for the day. With the exception of duration and when the activity took place, there’s no other stats to browse for Move IQ.

Music: The Forerunner 35 supposedly plays music but I haven’t seen the widget appear unlike previous devices I’ve used. Still doing some trouble shooting on my end.

FORERUNNER 35 IN A NUTSHELL

forerunner 35 hot-dayThe Garmin Forerunner 35 is an excellent all-in-one GPS watch if your activities largely revolves around running and cycling. There’s very little to dislike. Really.

I’m just curious why a circular design wasn’t preferred over the current rectangular appearance. Personally I’d have preferred a circular watch design but that’s just me.

Garmin’s Forerunner 35 offers the robustness of a work horse usually associated with the Forerunner series; value for money and looks good for all day use.
forerunner-35-familyThe Forerunner 35 is available in 4 colours and the bands aren’t changeable. You can purchase the Forerunner 35 at $199 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.

If you reside in Singapore, you can get the Forerunner 35 from Garmin Singapore or its authorised retailers.

Thanks for reading!

2 Comments

  • Reply Victor Tipple October 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Hi!
    I am trying to decide between the forerunner 35 and the 235. I have read some reviews saying that the 235 sensor would be “printed” on your skin for a big while, if you use it for a long while. Have you had this problem? If so, have you had felt the same about the 35?
    I also would like to know if the notification reading in the 235 works better than in the 35, or if it is the same. If there are more than 1 message, would I be able to read it on the watch?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Michael S October 30, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Victor,

      Both the FR35 and FR235 will imprint the OHR on our wrist. It all boils down to hydration levels. Drink enough and the print should disappear quickly. I haven’t used an OHR fitness tracker that doesn’t imprint save for the Apple Watch. The print comes from wearing the fitness device snugly.

      For smart notifications, the 2 watches appears to function the same with options to customise smart notification settings during and outside of activity tracking sessions.

      Most obvious difference between the FR35 and FR235, besides the shape, is OHR hardware, physiological measurements and access to Connect IQ.

      Hope that helps.
      Mike

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