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Garmin Forerunner 935 review: A peerless multisport watch

Our Rating :
£326.71 from
Price when reviewed : £390
inc VAT

It lacks some smart features, but the Forerunner 935 is as good a sports tracker as you’ll find


  • Sophisticated sports tracking
  • Excellent battery life
  • Comfortable, lightweight design


  • No music playback
  • No NFC

The Garmin Forerunner 935 isn’t as smart as some of the top-class GPS watches released since its launch in 2017, but it’s a peerless sports watch, offering an enormous wealth of data on all your activities. If you’re a committed runner or triathlete on the hunt for the ideal training partner, the Forerunner 935 won’t let you down.

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Garmin Forerunner 935 review: What you need to know

The Forerunner 935 is the most advanced watch in Garmin’s vaunted Forerunner range and, unlike most of the cheaper models, it’s designed to appeal to both triathletes and runners, offering in-depth tracking on running, swimming and cycling, plus a host of other sports.

In terms of features it has GPS, GLONASS, a Garmin Elevate optical heart-rate sensor, an altimeter and thermometer. Last but not least, there’s support for ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors such as heart-rate chest straps, foot pods and cycling power meters.

Thanks to its impressive array of sensors, the watch offers sophisticated insights into your training status, telling you whether it’s a good idea to train or not. When used with a compatible Running Dynamics Pod (or a HRM-Run or HRM-Tri heart-rate monitor), it also delivers advanced metrics such as ground contact time, balance, stride length and vertical ratio that can help you to better understand your running technique.

The Forerunner 935 also does a great job of tracking your everyday activity, although it has no option to store music and no NFC for making contactless payments.

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Garmin Forerunner 935 review: Price and competition

The Forerunner 935 is available for £390 from Garmin, after an initial launch price of £470 in 2017. This reduction puts the Forerunner 935 in a cheaper price bracket than most of the watches that can rival its sports tracking, such as the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (£600), the Polar Vantage V (£439) and the Suunto 9 (£434). The Fenix 5 Plus and the Suunto 9 do have more premium build quality, though, and the Fenix 5 Plus also boasts more smart features as well as full colour maps.

Cheaper watches that can compete with the Forerunner 935 in some respects include the Coros Apex 46mm (£300), a triathlon watch with a great design, and the Garmin Forerunner 645 (£300), which has most of the running smarts of the Forerunner 935 but no multisport mode. You can also get the Forerunner 645 Music for £350, which builds on the Forerunner 645 with music playback and Garmin Pay support.

Garmin Forerunner 935: Design and features

The Forerunner 935 is a sports tracker first and foremost, so its looks are unlikely to wow you. However, its black casing is subtle and inoffensive enough to wear when you’re not training, and it’s compatible with Garmin’s QuickFit 22 bands, so you can swap the plain silicone band for something fancier if you prefer.

The Forerunner 935’s traditional five-button running-watch design works well for navigating its many menus and allows easy control of the watch during activities. Touchscreens and scrolling knobs are fun, but when you’re sweaty nothing beats a physical button for precise control.

One advantage the Forerunner 935 has over rugged watches such as the Fenix 5 Plus is that its plastic design helps it to be lightweight. At 49g, it’s some 37g lighter than its stablemate. And despite this, it packs plenty into its svelte frame. There’s GPS, GLONASS, Garmin’s Elevate optical heart-rate monitor, a barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer.

The Forerunner 935 also connects via ANT+ and Bluetooth to other sensors including heart-rate monitors, running pods, power meters, and speed and cadence sensors. It’s waterproof (5ATM), and while its 30.5mm display doesn’t dazzle compared to those on smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Fitbit Ionic, it’s always easy to read and only becomes more so in bright sunlight.

Battery life is listed as 24 hours for GPS use, which can be extended to 60 hours with Garmin’s UltraTrac mode. This mode isn’t as accurate because it takes readings less frequently, but it’s a handy feature for ultramarathon fans seeking the ultimate in longevity. In general, I achieved around two weeks of use from the Forerunner 935, even when logging outdoor activities most days, which is terrific.

READ NEXT: Polar Vantage V review

Almost all of the Forerunner 935’s best features relate to sports tracking, which I’ll come onto below, but it does have some smarts. When your phone is in Bluetooth range, you get notifications and all messages on your wrist, and you can also check calendar entries and the weather. Another handy feature is the music remote, which lets you use pause and skip music from your wrist.

Garmin also has the Connect IQ store, which contains a huge range of downloadable watch faces, along with some handy apps such as Uber ETA. As you’d expect, there’s a much smaller selection than you’d find in the Apple App Store or Google Play. The store also isn’t quite as easy to use as Fitbit’s app store, but it’s unlikely you’ll spend much time using it since most of the features you need comes installed on the watch.

Garmin Forerunner 935 review: Running features and performance

The Forerunner tracks a huge variety of sports, but its running mode is the most feature-rich. I’ve used it through two marathon training cycles and, well, it’s just phenomenal. Hit the Run button and it quickly locks on to GPS plus any sensors you have nearby (including running pods such as Stryd. In my 18 months of using it, the longest I’ve waited for a GPS fix is 60 seconds, and usually it locks on in less than ten seconds.

You can customise the watch’s data screens to show any stats you want to see. My only criticism here is that you can only do this on the watch itself, not in the Garmin Connect app, and you can only have four stats per page. Most of the time, you probably won’t need more than four data fields at a time, and it’s easy enough to scroll through screens, but the Coros Apex allows six fields and it’s still easy to see them all at a glance.

Distance and heart-rate tracking are both accurate and I’d say the latter in particular stands out on the Forerunner 935. Wrist-based optical sensors are never totally dependable, but the Forerunner 935’s is reliable enough that you don’t need to use a chest strap, even if you’re following a workout based entirely on heart rate.

You can create such a workout or, indeed, one based on time, distance or pace in Garmin Connect and beam it over to the watch wirelessly. There’s also a simple Intervals mode you can set up on the watch itself. I feel Garmin is leading the way when it comes to making it easy to create and follow workouts on the wrist, which is a key feature for keen amateurs and pros alike.

The Forerunner 935 also offers navigation features. You can create courses on the Garmin Connect website and sync them to the watch, but it’ll only guide you along a basic breadcrumb trail, unlike the Fenix 5 Plus range, which has full maps. You can also turn on a “Back to Start” feature mid-run to guide you home, which is incredibly useful in new cities and when running off-road.

If you have a foot pod linked to the Forerunner 935, you can also analyse your running technique using metrics such ground contact time and stride length. This is a bit full on, and few would recommend tweaking your technique under the guidance of your watch alone. However, if you’re working on your form with an expert, this data might help you keep tabs on any changes.

A host of clever features kick in after you finish running, starting with an estimate of how many hours of recovery you need. You’ll also be advised on the effect of your session in terms of aerobic and anaerobic benefit, the former marking improvements in your general cardiovascular fitness and the latter your ability to run at speed for longer.

You can also monitor your overall training load and whether a workout is effective in improving your fitness in terms of your VO2 max, which is also measured by the watch. Push too hard too often and you’ll be told you’re “Overreaching” in a counterproductive fashion, risking injury without actually benefiting your fitness.

Ideally, you’re aiming for “Productive” or, if you’re about to race, “Peaking”, which suggests you’ve reduced your training load in a smart way to smash your PB. The Forerunner 935 estimates your times for a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon based on your VO2 max. In my experience, these times are outrageously optimistic, but it’s something to shoot for I guess.

Garmin Forerunner 935 review: Activity and other sports tracking

Most of the other sports modes on the Forerunner 935 work in a similar fashion to the running mode, measuring distance, pace/speed and duration of your workout while adding in a few sport-specific stats such as stroke rate in the case of swimming. They all feed into your overall training load too. This is a triathlon watch, so unlike many GPS wearables, there is an open-water mode, plus a few different multisport options including swimrun and duathlon.

The performance of the Forerunner is impressive across all of these sports, with accurate heart-rate and distance tracking, although it won’t attempt to track heart rate when swimming. Many other trackers try this with mixed results, but if you need these insights you’ll need to link to a swim-specific heart-rate monitor like Garmin’s HRM-Swim.

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One sports mode with a difference is strength training, where Garmin attempts to count reps in each of your sets and even identify the exercise you’re doing. This is a bit hit and miss, although you can adjust the reps counted from your wrist, and even note the weight you used. Maybe my form is just off, but the Forerunner 935 generally misidentified most exercises, even when it counted the reps correctly. This has the potential to be an invaluable feature for those who like to log their workouts in minute detail, but right now it feels like more effort than it’s worth to get the numbers right.

The Forerunner 935 also does a stand-up job of tracking your everyday activity, recording steps, floors climbed, resting and active calories, active minutes (over the course of a week) and even your stress level, which is based on heart-rate variability. The steps target adjusts automatically based on past activity, which usually means I’ll be several thousand steps short on rest days in between lots of running.

Heart rate is tracked 24/7 and you’ll get an estimate of your resting heart rate each day, so you can monitor this over time to see if you’re getting fitter – the number going down is a good sign. Sleep is recorded and the Forerunner 935 has Garmin’s advanced sleep-monitoring features, using heart-rate variability among other info to provide a more detailed picture of your night’s rest. Along with total duration, it will tell you the time spent in light, deep and REM sleep, and also depict your movements through the night.

All this information is engagingly presented in the Garmin Connect app. Small tiles on the home page show key data, and tapping these tiles gives you more in-depth data into trends over recent weeks and months. On the watch itself, you can scroll through widgets that show your everyday stats and also set up alerts to move if you’ve been sedentary for too long. Everyday tracking is not what the Forerunner 935 is primarily designed for, but it does it well.

Garmin Forerunner 935 review: Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 935 is a five-star multisport watch that blows everything else in its price range out of the water. As well as offering in-depth insights into running, swimming and cycling, it’s an everyday activity tracker that’s lightweight and comfortable enough to wear at all times.

If you want all of the above in a more stylish design, and with the added benefit of music storage and NFC payments, you’ll need to look at the Fenix 5 Plus range, which starts at £600. However, if it’s just the fitness features you need, nothing does it better.