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Garmin Forerunner 935 Review

This altimeter watch is loaded with features for the mountain athlete.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $500 List | $328.94 at Amazon
Pros:  Tracks many activities, easy to use, stylish, comfortable
Cons:  Shorter battery life, less accurate GPS
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Paige Klugherz ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2019
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 13
  • Altimeter Accuracy - 30% 7
  • Battery Life - 20% 7
  • User experience - 20% 9
  • Features - 15% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner935 can handle your big backcountry days as well as the front-country gym workouts that earn you the glutes to bag those peaks! With the ability to track almost any type of activity along with altitude, heart rate, sleep, calories burned, and more, this is a great all-around training tool. It's comfortable to wear and worked for the varying sizes of our male and female testers' wrists. Although we found the GPS to be a bit less accurate than other watches tested, that fell into the "good enough" category for us since the user interface and overall features with this watch are so strong. This earns our Top Pick for its wide array of tracking capabilities and ease of use.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Although it has a shorter battery life and is a bit less accurate than other altimeter watches, this one still holds its own because of its all-around training capabilities and quick learning curve.

Performance Comparison


The Forerunner is comfortable enough for your longest runs  ridge scrambling  and peak bagging.
The Forerunner is comfortable enough for your longest runs, ridge scrambling, and peak bagging.

Altimeter Accuracy


While the Forerunner's altimeter seemed to be consistent under clear skies and good weather, we did experience some inaccuracies when moving on trails and coming out of canyons. We would calibrate it frequently when at known elevations, and never found the discrepancies to be too large, but it seemed to overestimate elevation gain during activities.


Overall, we think it does a good job, and if you're willing to sacrifice some battery life and have multiple satellite systems enabled (GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO available), then you'll find it even more accurate.

The watch altimeter reading 9002' at an actual elevation of 9265'.
The watch altimeter reading 9002' at an actual elevation of 9265'.

Battery Life


The battery life on this watch is good, not great. For most big days, this watch will have enough juice to track the whole thing, but if you're an ultrarunner tackling a 100 miler, we wouldn't guarantee this one would last to the finish line. There are numerous features that you can turn off in order to conserve battery life, such as constant heart rate monitoring and Bluetooth connectivity to your phone.


No GPS altimeter watch will be able to come close to the battery life seen in the more pared-back models such as the Casios or the Suunto Core, but if you're not going to be using it for multi-day tracking or long treks, this one probably has enough.

We loved that the buttons were responsive and didn't dig into our arms.
We loved that the buttons were responsive and didn't dig into our arms.

User Experience


We found this watch to be easy to get started with right out of the box- something we always appreciate! While there are definitely things to learn in the user manual, such as which button to hold down to access the settings menu, a lot of the functions are very intuitive. We enjoyed the crisp, bright display and unlike the Casios, the five buttons were clearly labeled and did not feel overwhelming.


The accompanying app, Garmin Express, can be accessed via your phone or downloaded to a Windows or Mac computer. It can take up to a few minutes for the watch to sync, but the app was clear and straightforward to use, with multiple ways to view your daily and activity data.

This shows screens in the app where you can add in personal data  navigate through different menus  and view your activity data in multiple ways.
This shows screens in the app where you can add in personal data, navigate through different menus, and view your activity data in multiple ways.

Comfort and Fit


This silicone strap is comfortable and could be tightened down well for users with smaller wrists. Although the watch face has a large diameter, it's slimmer and lighter than some of the more basic ABC watches, making it one we'd wear in day-to-day life. It even fit well below close-fitting base layers.


Features


The Forerunner 935 scores high in the features category because it satisfies the requirements for a standard ABC watch and also has tons of fitness and smartwatch features to make it the one and only watch you'll need. While you may never get around to using every minor element, they're all there.


Altimeter and Barometer


Altitude is measured using both the barometer and GPS. The home screen of the watch can be customized so that your altitude is always viewable, and you can also enable a widget that will show you a graph of your altitude over the last four hours. Of course, if you're recording an activity, you'll also create an elevation graph for that whole tracking period.

Barometric pressure can be viewed in another widget, showing a trend graph as well as the maximum and minimum readings of the previous six hours.

Here we checked our altitude and the aspect of a nearby peak on our hunt for frozen lakes to ice skate.
Here we checked our altitude and the aspect of a nearby peak on our hunt for frozen lakes to ice skate.

Compass


The compass is another of the many widgets that you can add. It's available as a stand-alone screen or on a screen that also shows altimeter and barometer data. Although we found it to be fairly precise when compared against all the other watches, as is always recommended, bring a second method to double-check the readings when in a high consequence scenario.

Timekeeper


The watch, of course, has all the basic timekeeping functions including a stopwatch, timer, and the ability to set multiple alarms- always a plus! You can also set alternative time zone clocks that can be viewed after entering the clock menu by holding the "up" button when on the home screen.

This is a sample of some of the data screens that you can view on your watch  as well as one of the many customizable homescreens.
This is a sample of some of the data screens that you can view on your watch, as well as one of the many customizable homescreens.

Fitness Tracking


Like the rest of the Garmin line, the Forerunner935 can track tons of different sports and activities. For someone looking to up their training game, this is a really helpful tool for keeping track of not just your runs or rides, but also the days you strength train or do yoga. The watch has continuous heart rate monitoring to give you feedback on your training load, recovery, and sleep.

It also offers VO2 max readings, which can give you insight into your cardio fitness. As with all of the watches that offer this feature, take its readings with a grain of salt. Our testers saw wide ranges of VO2 measurements, even from the same watch. It can be a good way to track a trend, but don't get too hung up on the number since it's known that there can be a significant margin of error with the wrist heart rate monitoring from person to person. (If you are really curious, VO2 max is best tested in a lab setting on a treadmill.)

The fitness meausurements can be a helpful tool to track trends.
The fitness meausurements can be a helpful tool to track trends.

GPS


This watch is equipped to work with three satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO. While the default is to only use GPS, the other two can be enabled when greater accuracy is needed, although doing so will drain the battery more quickly. With just the default setting of GPS, we did experience some issues with accuracy in the length of our recorded activities, with this watch generally recording longer mileage than other watches tested. Another feature is Ultratrac, which records points less frequently during an activity in order to save battery life. You can also use the GPS functions to upload and follow routes, save locations, or navigate to a waypoint or back home.

Value


This isn't a cheap watch, but if you're a mountain athlete looking to get a better insight into your training, this could be a great tool. There's a lot packed into this one, especially if you're looking for that crossover product that has the mountain capabilities along with the smartwatch features. It's a great option for a hiker, trail runner, skier, mountain biker, etc., and since it's less expensive than other Garmin watches that only offer a little bit more, we think this is the one to spring for within the brand.


Conclusion


The Garmin Forerunner935 is an easy to use training watch that is just as comfortable and functional in the front country as it is in the backcountry. You may sacrifice a bit of accuracy, but if that isn't as important to you as having an all-around watch, we don't think you'll notice. You'll appreciate the responsive buttons, slim profile, and comfortable watchband. Make sure the battery life will be sufficient for your biggest excursions, and if so, this Top Pick will become a fast favorite.

We took the Garmin (black) for many trail runs and long days of backpacking through the highlands of Iceland.
We took the Garmin (black) for many trail runs and long days of backpacking through the highlands of Iceland.


Paige Klugherz