Hands on: Garmin Forerunner 935 review

A powerful, but pricey, GPS watch

What is a hands on review?
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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.


  • Sleek design
  • Personalised training effect
  • Long battery life


  • Expensive
  • No music playback

The Garmin 935 is something of a watch that straddles two worlds: the insane power of the Fenix 5 and the sleek lines of the less ostentatious running watch range from the brand.

Actually, it pops a leg into a third world (somehow): it's only really there for the serious runner or the enthusiast who has a little too much money kicking around.

It costs £469.99 ($500) in black, so it's anything but cheap. There will also be 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.

Even still, the 935 is also one of the most exciting watches from Garmin in a long while - and it'll even function as a smartwatch too.

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.

It's something that will need to be properly tested though, as while it does have some serious science behind it we've seen that these predictors can be a little out-of-sync with actual fitness levels. A quick check of your VO2 Max levels on many Garmin users' watches will show rather optimistic race predictions, for instance.

That doesn't mean the watches are inaccurate, but hopefully the granular nature of the way the 935 can measure your fitness (using a range of heart rate metrics) will give a more accurate picture.


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 we use that as a daily timepiece with no issues.

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 if it continues in the same vein as previous watches should give decent results... most of the time. It's not a fault of Garmin, but wrist-based heart rate monitors can struggle with accuracy compared to a chest strap, simply due to their location.

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. Sadly, it wasn't on show, so we weren't able to check it out just yet - see our full Garmin Forerunner 935 review for that information.


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.

One of the reasons users might be after this watch is the battery life: ultra-runners or Ironman triathletes will enjoy the 24 hours battery life (in the less-accurate but longer-lasting UltraTrac mode) to keep them safe from battery death at a crucial point in the race.

The Garmin rep we spoke to pointed to the Fenix 5 as a better watch if you want navigation on the go, but the 935 should have some navigation ability inside as well - we're looking forward to checking that out in the final review.

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 do, early signs are that it's a competent experience indeed.

Check back to see our full 935 review in the coming weeks - sadly, it won't be marathon tested, but we'll do our best to put it through its paces elsewhere.

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.