Garmin’s Forerunner 935 ($499.99) is probably the most advanced multi sport GPS watch any serious athlete, triathlete for the matter, can buy at present. The Fenix 5 series may wow with its design and practical considerations for usage. But just imagine all the “wow’s” on the Fenix 5 and port it over to an ultra light weight tough shell and you have the Forerunner 935.
As a runner, I genuinely appreciated how light weight the Forerunner 935 is. And as an owner of the Fenix 5 series, I enjoyed the identical full feature training functions. Controls and scrolling on the Forerunner 935 was smooth and clearly an upgrade over the Fenix 5 and 5S. Syncing of workouts data over Wi-Fi is something I didn’t think much of but the convenience is unforgettable. The fit was perfect and it’s easy to fall in love with this watch.
Having used the watch for a while now, here’s what I have to say. Now because the operating system of the Forerunner 935 is identical to that of the Fenix 5 series, some portions of this write up are inevitably repeated.
FORERUNNER 935 LOOK AND FEEL
The Forerunner 935 weighs in at a mere 49 grams. Comparatively, the Fenix 5 clocks in at 86 grams and the Fenix 5X at a hefty 98 grams. The minuscule gram difference may sound negligible but you’d notice the difference if you’re running for long distances or switching from a heavier device.
The design of the Forerunner 935 follows in the image of the Fenix 5 series; from the compatible Quick Fit watch straps, identical charging ports and cables, to the near flush optical HR sensors.
The single reasons why the Forerunner sports a lower profile, weight and size compared to the Fenix 5 is because it ditched the metal bezel and stainless steel back, opting for a fiber-reinforced polymer casing instead.
There are minor cosmetic differences and these will go easily unnoticed due to how inconspicuous the changes are. For example, there’s inscriptions on the watch display which is visible only under bright light. (That’s for me at least) Also the Start-Stop button is black and punctuated with a sliver of silver on the watch face. Nice features but forgettable once it’s worn.
The display is sunlight viewable transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) and will perform splendidly under bright afternoon sun. A back light with customisable levels of brightness ensures visibility in the night is not compromised.
5 buttons control the full features of the watch with a combination of short and long presses. And these are the functions.
- Top right: START/ ENTER
- Bottom right: BACK
- Top left: Back light/ Activates Control Menu
- Center left: SCROLL UP/ Long hold to expand for more functions
- Bottom left: SCROLL DOWN
Compared to the Fenix 5 series where only the 5X or the Sapphire versions shipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, the Foreunner 935 can sync via Wifi and is $100 less than entry level Fenix 5.
The Forerunner 935 ships with a screwed in watch strap unlike the Fenix 5 which actually shipped with a Quick Fit attachment strap.
I like the customization options in the form of changeable straps but I’m not a fan of the official Garmin Quick Fit bands at $49 a piece. After pay $100 for 2 sets, I’m giving 3rd party straps a go and see how things pan out.
The back of the watch houses Garmin’s Elevate heart rate measuring technology and features a near flush optical heart rate sensors with just that tad of protrusion.
The vibration is more noticeable on this lightweight watch compared to the Fenix 5 series and I’m thinking it’s probably to do with the fiber reinforced polymer casing.
The watch is water resistant and will survive most water activities save for those considered diving in nature.
After a month of use, I didn’t notice any wear and tear signs on the device. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that it’s black or that I didn’t really throw it around. Either way, I’m sure you’d be careful if you dropped $500 on a watch.
Optical heart rate measurements from the Forerunner 935 was compared against that of the Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor. I did a regular slow jog on a treadmill followed by an outdoor run with slopes and hills.
I found the readings from the watch comparable to that of a chest strap HR monitor and have little to complain about. This comparison is specific to running based activities.
You’ll have to note that the graphs were expanded and stretched to show the nuances in HR differences. If I had plotted these 2 graphs and reduced the picture size, it would more often than not, show a single line.
I like to think, based on my experiences, that wrist based heart rate measurements have come a long way since 3-4 years back. Granted it can never rival the accuracy presented by chest strap HR monitors, wrist based HR measurement hardware scores by offering convenience and comfort which chest straps can never rival.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 comes with an extensive list of pre-loaded activity apps for use. In Garmin’s ecosystem, workouts such as running, cycling, swimming are labeled apps.
Within each activity app, you can further create your own display fields and customize it to your own liking. 4 data fields per screen and up to 10 screens!
To access the menu settings within each activity app, long press on the left center button to bring up the expanded options.
- Run, Trail Run, Treadmill, Indoor Track, Hike, Walk
- Bike Indoor, Bike, MTB
- Pool Swim, Open Water
- Multisport, Triathlon, SwimRun,
- Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski
- SUP, Row, Row Indoor
- Golf, TruSwing (Garmin’s Golf TruSwing hardware required)
- Strength, Cardio
- Jumpmaster, Tactical
- Other (Create custom workout)
- Project Waypoint
- Track Me
- HRV Stress
- Training Peaks
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is capable of lap swimming and stroke identification; I’ve had good experience with the former but not the latter.
Multi-Sport workout mode such as Triathlon will have the benefit of including the transition timing between each event. The different segments in the multi-sport activity are then recorded as 6 seperate workouts using triathlon as an example:
- Swim phase
- First transition
- Bike phase
- Second Transition
- Run phase
That’s 5 seperate events when viewed on the Garmin Connect platform. The 6th and final event is the triathlon in its entirety.
This aspect is probably one of the key selling features of the Garmin Forerunner 935. The partnership with FirstBeat has provided Garmin devices with advanced physiological measurements which were previously available to athletes in lab settings such as the VO2 max estimation. I’ll list a few other less common ones.
HRV stress test
Using compatible chest strap HR monitor, the Garmin Forerunner 935 can estimate the user’s body stress levels after a 3 minutes assessment.
A high reading would suggest a stressed body which hasn’t quite recovered from a previous hard workout. As such a lighter workout is suggested.
I’m also happy to see that the HRV stress is now getting a graph on Garmin Connect so users can track their body stress levels over time.
One of the new metrics to be expanded, the training effect (TE) now is split into aerobic and anaerobic categories where in the past it used to be lumped as a single metric.
This may help users decipher the extent of their workout better. For me personally, my long runs usually score higher on the aerobic section, HIITs score higher on anaerobic, and hard runs may score in both. So if the day comes when either of these scores are low, I take it that I haven’t pushed as hard.Of course it isn’t as simple as that with everything in the day affecting the physical well being before training at night. But as a gauge, I think it’s a welcomed metric.
Another new physiological metric, this training load is the sum of your EPOC measurements for the last 7 days. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) refers to the increased rate of oxygen consumption after a strenuous workout session. Put simply, your body continues to burn calories long after your workout. ACE has a great write up with regard to EPOC and its effects.
So a high training load would imply a significant amount of intense workouts. Garmin’s metric has split it into 3 zones of optimal, low and exceeding and according to them, this range will be adjusted as your training time and intensity increase or decrease.
I particularly like the training status estimations. Some times, it’s inevitable we clock more training hours than we should due to popular literature or some new mode of training we read off the internet.
I thought the training status numbers got me thinking if my training is really paying off or merely wearing my shoes outs.
The first 6-20 minutes after a run, a performance indicator measurement will pop up on the watch and the values can range from -20 to +20.
This number is actually based on the analysis of your pace, HR and HRV after your activities. It is essentially a prediction of your ability to perform compared to your average fitness level.
I’ve gone for runs when the a +5 pops up after about 6 minutes and I’d know I’m probably running in a better condition compared to the day before. At least that’s how I’d use the stat.
Lactate Threshold Estimation
This is a tough test to do. It needs to be done outside, with GPS enabled and following the guidance of the watch.
It can also be completed during any hard run outdoors as long as automatic detection is set to “On” under “Settings.”
There’s lactate threshold estimation for both running and cycling.
Functional Threshold Power
This is a metric unique to cyclists and requires a power meter in order to complete the test.
Upon the completion of the workout activity, you can immediately access the details of the sessions on the Forerunner 935 while you’re stretching to cool down.
There are a few more goodies in watch which you can access to aid with your training.
- Race a previous recorded activity
- Set a target
- Training Calender
- Virtual Partner (Set as data field to see this feature)
ALL DAY STATS
Besides performance tracking, Garmin’s devices have provided a basal form of all day activity tracking. It’s not stellar but it gets the job done.
You can be assured that your steps, distances and calories are tracked daily with the extras (depending on model) such as all day stress levels and floors climbed available to specific models only.
The tracked stats are then synced and recorded to the Garmin Connect mobile app; probably the most detailed and yet most confusing to navigate fitness tracker mobile app I’ve come across.
You’d have to understand that Garmin is stuck smack in the centre of catering to both performance athletes and the recreational chap looking to increase his activity levels. There’s no one size fits all and it shows.
You can also access more details and functions on the Garmin Connect Web platform. For example, Stryd power meter readings are captured in the web platform of Garmin Connect but not the mobile app. Also, you can only select training plans or create your own workouts on the Garmin Connect Web. I’d strongly urge you to check out the Garmin Connect Web in order to exploit the full capabilities of the Forerunner 935.
One of the understated features of performance athlete wearables such as the Garmin Forerunner 935 is also how it easily doubles up as a navigation device with the on board ABC (Altimeter, Barometer and compass)
While it doesn’t have the capability to store maps like the Fenix 5 X, the Forerunner 935 does come with real time bread crumb trails and ABC for outdoor navigation.
The “Save location” feature, accessible from the Control Menu, easily provides the coordinates where the user currently is and allows one to set multiple POIs (Point of Interest) for future use.
Following in the footsteps of the Fenix 5 series, the Forerunner 935 also offers Bluetooth Low Energy compatibility with 3rd party devices on top of the ANT+ connections. I was able to pair both Polar’s H7 and H10 chest strap HR monitors to the watch with ease.
When it came to ANT+ connection, I was able to connect Garmin’s Running Dynamics Pod, Stryd runningpower meter and Wahoo cadence meter, and VIRB cameras such as the VIRB 360. The process may take a few tries but it works.
Here are a list of non core features that deserves mention.
Smart notifications: App and phone notifications will pop up on the display when this feature is enabled. The user can also pick up calls from the watch though communication still has to be carried out over the phone.
Music player – The Garmin Forerunner 935 can also control music playback on connected smart phone devices. This has always been a hit or miss function for me and to be honest, I’ve never actually used this function to much success.
Garmin’s blog has a pretty decent explanation detailing how to use the music player function on both iOS and Android devices.
Weather – The weather data is pulled from the connected mobile device. So if the Garmin Connect mobile app is not open, you won’t see data here.
Hot Keys – Garmin has set aside the “Start” and the “Back” key on the Forerunner 935 to double up as hot keys for quick access to select features such as stopwatch, timer, Bluetooth, or to save a location and a few more.
Connect IQ – This is Garmin’s equivalent of the app stores on App store and Google Play where you can find aesthetically pleasing watch faces more than anything else.
Recovery HR – 2 minutes after a workout is paused, the recovery HR reading will appear.
Control Menu – This is a new addition to the user interface of the Garmin Fenix 5. A long press of the top left hand menu brings up the control menu that houses a list of quick access funtions.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 935 IN A NUTSHELL
The single reason why I went back to the Fenix 5 was simply because the Forerunner 935 had a colour theme which was too dark for my liking. That being said, the Forerunner 935 is the only wearable I’ve worn to date which I found nothing to dislike, feature wise, based on my own usage.
It’s easy to forget the engineering marvel that went into this device. I actually brought the Forerunner 935 to Korean on my vacation on a single charge where I clocked daily workouts and navigated my way hiking up Mount Bukhansan. Not to mention I had my all day activity levels checked and reviewed my physical activities on the Garmin Connect mobile app.
While smart watches may offer vibrant displays along with nice to have bells and whistle features, I doubt any can go head to head with Garmin when it comes to workout recording. For now. And the Garmin Foreunner 935 is the most advanced GPS multi sport watch in Garmin’s arsenal.
You can purchase the Garmin Forerunner 935 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. And while you’re at it, make sure you get yourself one of the Garmin HR monitors that are good for swimming and provides running dynamics; future proof your training potential. Would love to hear your views in the comments section and thanks for reading!