Overview of the Garmin Forerunner 935:
The Garmin Forerunner 935 (FR935) is the best GPS running watch I have ever used, period. OK, now that we got that out of the way let me explain why.
The FR935 is Garmin’s premier running (and triathlon) multi-sport watch that does everything the discerning road or trail runner needs – and then does a whole lot more. It is accurate, comfortable, intuitive to use, wildly customizable, includes a boatload of features, and stylish. The only drawback I see is the price. At $499.99 the FR935 is actually reasonably priced given it’s feature-set compared to its main rivals, yet still too expensive I believe.
There are watches that do more (e.g., while the FR935 shares the same software as the Fenix 5 the Fenix 5x does include full mapping capabilities) and there are watches that arguably look better (e.g., certain models from the Suunto Spartan line) but in terms of a total package I think this is the best do (almost) everything GPS + optical heart rate watch available today.
Note: given the number of features available on GPS watches these days I’m going to focus on the items I hope most folks care the most about. If you are new to considering a GPS watch or simply want a full list of all the features available you can see that via the Amazon Affiliate link (and you will be supporting URP if you decide to purchase this way too!)
- Weight: 49g (impressively lightweight and slim)
- Wrist-based optical heart rate sensor built in-house by Garmin (they call it Elevate)
- Battery life: up to 24 hours in 1 second GPS recording mode; up to 50 hours at the lowest GPS recording mode (and yes, you can charge mid-activity if 24 hours is not enough)
- Mostly plastic bezel with stainless fiber reinforced polymer, buttons, and rear case
- Five tactile buttons to control everything (i.e., there is no touchscreen to worry about in wet weather)
- Up to 50m water resistance
- GPS with Glonass
- Altimeter: barometric
- Data transfer: USB / Bluetooth / Wi-Fi (so happy to see Wi-Fi back on a watch again!)
- Sensor support: ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (so happy to see ANT+ reinstated again too!)
- Data captured: appears to be nearly everything (i.e., while it obviously captures things like distance, pace, vertical ascent, etc. it also includes a boatload of newer metrics like training status and load, VO2Max estimates, and running power)
- Customizable options: too many to list but between widgets on the watch itself, all the sport modes you could ever need, Garmin’s Connect IQ apps, etc. there is seemingly no limit to the number of customizations you can make
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is accurate, comfortable, intuitive to use, wildly customizable, includes a boatload of features, and stylish.
Now for more details. In this review, we’ll break things down in to four areas:
- What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the product.
- What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the product better.
- When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the product excels.
- How it compares: my current go-to product(s) and how this compares.
- Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase or not.
- Purchasing Information: where to go to purchase this product.
I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. After all, you’ve probably got more running you can do today!
What’s good about the Garmin Forerunner 935?
- Accuracy. I don’t know about you but this is table stakes nowadays, right? Well, the good news is that the FR935 does not disappoint in this area. From an accuracy standpoint the key things I care most about are the obvious ones – GPS, elevation data, and HR. Everything else to me is gravy. I found the distance measurements, elevation data, and optical heart accuracy to be among the best I have seen to-date with the one caveat being that perhaps due to my skin color the HR measurements still struggle during high intensity intervals when wrist is soaked in sweat or water.
- Comfortable. The FR935 is appropriately sized, lightweight, and surprisingly thin. Combine this with all the micro-adjustments available on the watch band itself and this makes for a very comfortable watch that can be worn all day, every day.
The FR935 is comfortable enough to wear all day and night (and I need a tan! sheesh)
- Intuitive. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a long-time Garmin user but I’ve found their menu system to be more intuitive than the competition.
- Customizable. Nearly everything is customizable with this watch. From obvious things like the watch face and data screens to more advanced customizable options like the ability to install and reorder widgets, operate in a bazillion sport modes (or create your own), install and use apps through Garmin’s Connect IQ platform, switch the watch straps (colored silicone straps, leather, and stainless-steel straps are all available), customizing hot keys, etc. And the best part? Most of the customizing can be done directly on the watch itself.
Customize the watch to your heart’s content
- Battery life. It’s advertised as 24 hours in 1 second GPS recording mode. And I’m seeing pretty close to that in my real-world testing. That covers 99+% of most folks use cases in a given year. Love it.
- The feature set. Is there anything missing from this watch? The only thing I see on the market this watch appears to be missing is onboard storage for music (and Garmin just announced a little sister with this feature – the FR645M) and the full mapping capabilities of the Fenix 5X. If you can live without those two features there is way more than enough here to keep you entertained.
- Capturing ALL the data. While the FR935 obviously captures the common metrics like distance, time, pace, elevation gained, etc. it also does a whole lot more. Some of the new or notable data metrics I found particularly useful includes:
- Training effect numbers post workout split between aerobic and anaerobic impacts
- VO2Max estimates after workouts where a change in this estimate was triggered
- A general training status view to show whether the training load (i.e., run) is contributing to your fitness (or if you are potentially over-reaching)
- 24 x 7 continual heart rate tracking, taken every 1-2 seconds which is new and notable here, to show you things like changes in your resting HR (which in turn I have found to be a good predictor of whether I am about to get sick)
- Note: the FR935 captures so much more data including what Garmin calls their advanced running dynamics (e.g., vertical oscillation, stride length, running power) when paired with a compatible chest strap or running pod but I don’t have a need for this data yet. However, it’s nice to know it’s possible should you want to adjust things based on this data.
The latest optical heart-rate sensor from Garmin is included to power all sorts of useful metrics
So much data! (note: some data is only captured with a compatible RD pod or HR strap)
- Strava Live Segments. While not unique to Garmin the folks at Suunto, Epson, Polar, and Tom Tom (among others) have not signed on yet. Star a segment or segments and go for a run or ride. As you approach the segment you will get a countdown timer announcing the start of the segment. Then you’ll get notified how you are progressing during the segment and when it is completed. I found this a useful way to figure out where unique segments start and finish.
- The charging cable. It’s small and passes the helicopter test (i.e., you can connect the charging cable and swing it overhead like a helicopter and it will stay connected). It works well.
The charging cable in action
How could the Garmin Forerunner 935 be improved?
- The price. At $500 this watch does A TON. And when compared to its main rivals from Suunto which cost the same or more with less features, in bulkier packages, and with half the battery life, you may wonder why I’m knocking the price point? Well, $500 is still a lot of money and most folks are paying for features they may never use with this watch. I’d love to see it come down to $400 so it could appeal to more folks (and I suspect it will once COROS releases their $299 PACE watch with claimed outstanding battery life).
- A little more durable. To be clear I’ve not had an issue whatsoever with the primarily plastic housing but if pushed in the wild I think a more durable front screen / housing would be appreciated.
When to use it?
- Every run, workout, ride, swim, ski, etc. This watch works for every run, sport, or workout.
- With everyday features like activity tracking, smartphone notifications, widgets (e.g., weather, calendar, etc.) this can be your daily watch as well.
Similar products to compare with:
We could use a lot of words to compare it with all the competing GPS watches and wearables on the market. From what I’ve used over the years (5 different Garmins, 3 Suuntos now, and an early version of a wrist-based optical sensor) I simply prefer the offerings from Garmin at this point when I look at the overall value and features I’m looking for in an everyday running or race watch.
If you want to spend less there is no shortage of options from both Suunto and other competitors that do a lot of what the Garmin Forerunner 935 does. Happy to discuss in the comments section below if you want to highlight your specific needs or wants.
Should you purchase the Garmin Forerunner 935?
So, the $500 question – should you purchase the Garmin Forerunner 935?
In a word, yes. It’s an awesome watch for all the reasons mentioned above.
03/23 Edit: Garmin offers a Forerunner upgrade program for certain models in exchange for a 20% off coupon. Contact Garmin Support for more information.
Questions about a specific feature or use case, comments, or feedback on this watch? Please share! And thanks for reading!
If you’re interested in purchasing this watch, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.
If that’s not an option, please consider using this Amazon Affiliate link. The return policy is great, and it’ll drop a few nickels into URP bucket if you decide to keep it. Thank You!
Meet Your Reviewer: Ben Zuehlsdorf
I am an avid running gear junkie. When I’m not smelling new shoes I’m usually running or racing around the local trails in Marin County, California or talking shop with the San Francisco Running Company community of friends. I was once a road marathoner but now have transitioned almost exclusively to the trails and racing ultras the last few years.
Disclaimer: This product was provided to URP/me for review purposes. Compensation was neither offered nor requested and all words and thoughts are 100% my own.