Hands on: Garmin Forerunner 935 review

A powerful, but pricey, GPS watch

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Our Early Verdict

A strong watch with sleek lines, it commands a rather high price. However, for that cost it does offer a wide range of features, so if you're a serious athlete you'll find some serious gains here.

For

  • Sleek design
  • Personalised training effect
  • Long battery life

Against

  • Expensive
  • No music playback

 

The Garmin Forerunner 935 is a watch that brings the brilliant running power of the Forerunner range and adds in the capabilities of Garmin’s Fenix line… it’s the first watch to marry the two worlds.

It’s clear that Garmin is going further down this line, with subsequent watches taking the same kind of angle - but the 935 is still the one that impresses us the most. Yes, it’s incredibly expensive, but the monster battery life and range of activities make it hard to resist.

 Garmin Forerunner 935 price and release date 

It costs £469.99 ($500) in black, so it's anything but cheap (although the prices have dropped a touch). There’s also a tri-bundle option available for £589.99 ($650) which will come with a yellow strap in addition to the black one as well as HRM-Tri, HRM-Swim, and a Quick Release Kit.

 Fitness, battery and performance metrics 

The main thing that catches the eye (apart from the price) is the training load monitoring. It's a simple screen that can tell you how well your fitness is improving while noticing how much training load you are putting on - the emphasis on you is key there.

By using technology and algorithms from Firstbeat, a heartbeat and performance analytics company, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is capable of learning your fitness levels, working out where you are in a training cycle and giving you qualified information on how trained you actually are.

This is great for those in training for endurance events, where a training plan might feel a little too hard (or easy) and being able to work out if the schedule is actually having the desired effect on training load and fitness.

In practice, it works very well, monitoring your training loads and letting you know when you’re doing too many junk miles. It’s not always the sort of thing that will change your training plan - for instance, when we were told our fitness wasn’t improving it was because we were chucking in more miles to build base endurance - but it gives confidence that the watch knows your personal fitness accurately.

There are new options on offer now when it comes to the physiological monitoring - your resting heart rate is monitored well, and you can even check out your stress levels over the course of a day.

The battery life on this thing is insane though. Like, we’ve never seen a running watch that lasts as long… we’re getting up to 10 days between charges, and that’s with every day activity.

If you don’t ever fire up the GPS, you’re going to be getting weeks out of this thing… it’s the perfect watch for the ultra marathon or Ironman.

It helps that it doesn't pump out music like the new Garmin Forerunner 645, but if it did we reckon you'd still get a week's life.

And when it comes to the amount of things you can actually do with it, well… we’re not even sure what some of them are. Golfers can practice their shots and get information on their swing, people who like boats can do… something and even parachutists are catered for.

Parachutists! A watch even for them! It makes us want to hurl ourselves out of a plane just to use the ‘Jumpmaster’ mode.

In terms of the design of this watch... well, it's hard to believe how much stuff is crammed into such a small space. It's a sleek, flat design that would look fine replacing a standard day to day watch. It's similar to the 735XT, and has been a great thing to have strapped to the wrist on a daily basis.

The strap is a ridged, sleek experience, matching the main watch in color. The version we saw was an understated / boring black version, but you can also get a neon yellow version for something a bit more brazen.

The rear of the watch has a heart rate monitor bolted on, using Garmin's proprietary Elevate tech, and we now trust it as much as a chest strap - it’s actually shown itself to be a bit more helpful. 

However, where previously Garmin users wanting to get the advanced running metrics (showing how high you're bouncing with each stride, whether you're more dominant on your left or right side etc) had to use a chest strap to have the accelerometer on their body.

The 935 offers a foot pod to take on the same role, and that's going to appeal to those that don't like feeling restricted by the strap. We’ve not tested that, and to be honest the advanced running metrics will only be of use to the top 1% of runners who need to know their ground contact time to get that extra edge.

The screen of the 935 has been upgraded over previous watches - offering an easy way to check out the multi-sport modes on this watch with an easy glance. There are almost too many metrics to mention here, but suffice to say that if you have a sport you like to track, you'll be able to do it here.

There's even an altimeter on board for hiking, so you'll be able to accurately check your elevation if you're a regular mountain goat.

The screen is really clear and legible, with an obviously upgraded amount of pixels over the earlier 630 and 735XT watches - and anyone moving up from a 620, for instance, is going to be bowled over.

The interface has been overhauled, but does look a bit busier than before. The main running screen is still simple and customisable, but there are more elements to look at when navigating through the watch, with a brighter user experience throughout.

If navigation is your thing, then the Fenix 5 is a better watch if you want mapping on the go, but the 935 has some navigation ability inside as well - you can easily find your way back to the start of your run.

Early verdict

The Forerunner 935 is a very strong watch from Garmin, one that mixes sleek design with power - but for a very high price. 

It's only really something serious runners / triathletes should be considering strapping to their wrists, but if you’re willing to pay the price you’re getting a watch that will do pretty much anything you ask of it and last for days… and days… and days.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.