The Garmin Forerunner range has always been a firm favourite with those who take sport seriously. Often chosen by runners and triathletes, there's now a wide selection of watches to track your every movement, whatever your sport.
The Forerunner 735XT is designed with those multisport athletes in mind. It represents a solid choice in the Garmin Forerunner family, the new Forerunner 935 is a better choice but the price might be prohibitive.
Now for the practical side we've been working out with the Garmin 735XT to see exactly what it offers and where it fits into the Forerunner family.
- Conventional round design
- No touch support
- 5ATM waterproofing
- 44.5 x 44.5 x 11.9mm; 44g
The Forerunner 735XT is classed as an advanced sports watch, slotting into a position above the 600 series devices. The 735XT was the first Forerunner device to offer Garmin's Elevate wrist-based heart-rate tracking - and saw a big shift away from the chest-based heart-rate tracking that was dominate in previous Garmin devices.
Compact and reasonably slim, the 735XT offers both sporty looks and a quite conventional design. The black model and is unassuming and discreet, whereas the blue version comes with a turquoise coloured strap if you want to get noticed.
Measuring 44.5mm in diameter, the 735XT isn't overly chunky, but certainly bigger than your average watch. However, it's not big for the sake of it - you will want that display space - and it's not overly thick, at just under 12mm. Making it an easy watch to to wear on a daily basis.
There are buttons around the 735XT's outer edges and we've found we've triggered the start/activity button a couple of times accidentally, which is quite easily done. Otherwise the buttons offer easy navigation through the user interface, although the hierarchy of the pages isn't always the easiest to follow.
For example, to access the menu you have to enter the activity area first and scroll down; however, there's a separate "options" menu area accessed with a long press on the up arrow for music control and clock options.
The 735XT is waterproof, with 5ATM protection meaning you can wear the watch when swimming. Although if you want accurate heart-rate readings when swimming you'll need the HRM-Swim or HRM-Tri accessory straps.
The 735XT's provided watch strap is comfortable and easy to adjust, making this Forerunner a great watch to wear both for sports and for tracking your general activity.
Features and performance
- GPS and GLOSNASS
- Compass & accelerometer
- Wrist-based heart-rate sensor
The hardware offered by the Forerunner 735XT gives you a full range of activity support. From the basic all-day activity tracker functions like step tracking and resting heart-rate reading, it's really the sports functions that are this watches big selling point. With profiles for a whole range of sports like running, swimming, cycling and more, the "XT" in the 735's name is a reminder that this is a device designed specifically for multi-sport athletes, with support for triathlon, duathlon and even brick support, to make your racing and training easy to track.
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During use, tapping the back button during a multi-sport event will mark that stage as complete, breaking down swim-transition-bike-transition-run into pieces while you keep the timer running.
As for the hardware, it's the addition of the compass that sets the 735XT aside from the Forerunner 235 model. This adds the ability to have more accurate navigation, giving you point-to-point and real-time breadcrumb trails, along with the option to navigate back to the start.
The top-of-the-range Forerunner 935 has a barometer, thermometer or gyroscope which the 735XT lacks. There are other absent features, such as accumulated training load. You get a recommendation for recovery time on the 735XT, but it's not as good as this feature is on the Forerunner 935. The lack of barometer for accurate elevation changes is a sorely missed feature - and the thing that cyclists will miss, as you'll be reliant on GPS elevation change measurements.
The Forerunner 735XT can draw out a huge amount of data and present it in an easily understandable way, the most important being the display during sport. With no touch supported, you will have to use the up and down buttons on the watch's left side to scroll through the screens, with all the important information easily accessible - speed, distance, time, pace, heart rate and HR zone - and laps automatically registered, or manually marked and all fully customisable.
The performance of the Elevate wrist-based heart-rate tracker are consistent, with the BPM averages falling into the expected lines and readings matching our manual measurement of heart rate.
The Forerunner 735XT also avoids some of the shortcomings we've seen on other wrist-based HR models: it reacts quickly to a change in pace and doesn't appear to suffer from spikes and offer reliable results.
GPS route tracking is accurate, with the distances recorded falling close enough to the expected or map-measured readings and GPS acquisition is fast, whatever the weather. Sometimes you might lose GPS reception under thick cover, but that's pretty normal for these types of device.
What we like the most is that on the run you can clearly see the information you want and these screens are fully customisable. There's support for a range of training options, with the watch offering intervals and targets (speed, distance, pace or combinations), meaning you can test yourself at race pace, or training targets.
You can also create workouts on the Garmin Connect app and send these to the watch, with far easier control offered via the app's display.
You also get the performance condition feature, which measures your performance towards the start of your activity against your baseline averages and tells you how you feel. It's a great feature, because it tells you that you're not feeling on top form and this run is going to hurt. It's an excellent indicator that you might need to adjust the intensity of your training.
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT has a long battery life which is far better than the average smartwatch. The watch will work as a general activity tracker in daily use for a week at least, while it will give you 14 hours tracking with heart rate and GPS.
However, with regular workouts between 30 minutes to an hour spread across the week, we've still only had to change it once a week and charging doesn't take long.
Smart functions and app
- Garmin Connect Mobile compatible
- Connect IQ supported
- Supports smartphone notifications
The Forerunner 735XT will support smartwatch notifications and, once paired with an Android phone, this includes the full run of regular notifications - even if you can't really do anything with them. Unlike an Android Wear watch, you can't reply to messages, but you are at least alerted so you can read those messages.
You do have the option to answer calls, but this is really for those who wear headphones. You can apparently control music which will remote control music from your phone, rather than from the watch, but we were not able to activate this feature. Also there's no option to load it up with music and connect your headphones.
Garmin also supports a range of Connect IQ apps that you can access through the Garmin Connect app and install on your phone. The Apple Watch and Android Wear offer better support for apps, but it does mean you have more integration with services or customisation options, that Garmin now offer.
The 735XT supports Garmin Connect Mobile, meaning the watch connects directly to your phone. The app holds all your details and exercise history, which can then be shared and connected with other services, like Strava for example.
Garmin Connect Mobile has caught up with current technology and is much modern than previous models, partly due to the lifestyle device explosion in the Vivo line, and stiff competition from the likes of Fitbit and its easy-to-use app.
You can customise what you're shown in Garmin Connect Mobile, although data fiends will still want to turn to the website version to get greater access to those big graphs and maps.
Garmin Mobile Connect can also give you the LiveTrack feature - which is great for cyclists - meaning you can share your ride on social media, or let people follow your progress.
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is not a cheap device, it is clearly aimed at multisport athletes, so it's loaded with functionality to this end. Even if you're not a triathlete, then this watch has some appeal over the lower-spec Forerunner 235, by offering a wider range of functions, without forking out for the cost of a Forerunner 935.
The Forerunner 935 is a better device, offering a wider feature set and more hardware sensors for more data, plus a much better visual display and more refined user interface. That makes the 935 the better daily wear device, but for the extra £70, you might question the need for that refinement considering what the 735XT has to offer.
That's the important thing about the 735XT: it's fully-featured, offering modern convenience features like smartphone support, masses of data on your performance and condition, and it syncs reliably to Garmin Connect.
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT has been around for a while and as you can see below you can now pick one up for a little over £300, a tempting offer indeed. There is a multitude of choice in the sports watch arena, but if you're interested in performance and functionality, then this Garmin is hard to beat.
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