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Garmin Forerunner 35 Review

A good entry into the Garmin world for recreational runners.
Garmin Forerunner 35
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $170 List | $90.93 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Small, comfortable, Garmin Connect Software
Cons:  Limited features and sports profiles
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Larin McPeak ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 28, 2019
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 11
  • Features - 35% 5
  • Ease of Use - 25% 9
  • Battery Life - 15% 6
  • Accuracy - 15% 6
  • Design - 5% 6
  • Ease of Set-up - 5% 7

Our Verdict

Sometimes the K.I.S.S. principle really delivers. In the case of the Garmin Forerunner 35, simplicity is what makes it such a great GPS watch. It is comfortable to wear and tracks your runs or bike rides while delivering some useful metrics and dynamics. And it has an optical heart rate monitor. There is no long list of features that come with this watch. But it does provide a thoughtful combination of needed features with a few nice to haves thrown in — all for a great price.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin Forerunner 35
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $90.93 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$499.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$499.99 at Amazon$199.99 at Amazon$273.18 at Amazon
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Pros Small, comfortable, Garmin Connect SoftwareLight and slim, tons of features, accurate, great battery lifeComprehensive, good battery life, and excellent app data managementComfortable, long battery life, good value, user friendlyComprehensive, great battery life for the features
Cons Limited features and sports profilesExpensive, no internal music storageHeavy, expensiveNo navigation, no upload-able workouts, not as customizable as a GarminNo on-device heart rate sensor, bulky
Bottom Line A good entry into the Garmin world for recreational runners.The Forerunner 935 has a ton of features and long battery life but still offers a comfortable size for most wrists.A full-featured GPS watch with good battery life for every-day use, training sessions, and wilderness navigation.A great value watch that will not confuse the non-techy athlete.A fully featured device for the discerning user.
Rating Categories Garmin Forerunner 35 Garmin Forerunner 935 Garmin Fenix 5 Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Features (35%)
10
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5
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
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6
10
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9
Ease Of Use (25%)
10
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9
10
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8
10
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8
10
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10
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7
Battery Life (15%)
10
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6
10
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9
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9
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10
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8
Accuracy (15%)
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6
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9
Design (5%)
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6
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6
10
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6
10
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4
Ease Of Set Up (5%)
10
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7
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5
Specs Garmin Forerunner 35 Garmin Forerunner... Garmin Fenix 5 Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Main body size 42 mm diameter, 11mm thickness 47 mm diameter, 13.9 mm thickness 45mm diameter, 14 mm thickness 45mm, 13.7mm 56 mm diameter, 18 mm thickness
Weight, Verified 37g 49g 85g 49g 87g
Battery Type Rechargeable lithium-ion Lithium ion Rechargeable lithium-ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargeable lithium ion
Manufacturer-reported Battery Life Up to 9 days Up to 2 weeks Up to 2 weeks Up to 30 days 14 days
Navigation Features? None Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks "Back to start" or track-back Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks
HR Monitor? Yes, optional chest strap Yes Yes, optical wrist sensor, with optional chest strap Yes Yes, optional chest strap
Sleep tracking? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Step counting? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Button Lock? No Yes Yes N/A Yes
Barometric Altimeter? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? No Yes Yes Yes No
Smartwatch features Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Garmin Forerunner assortment line was the first to make GPS watches in a normal sized watch. With the 35, Garmin has managed to add a few fun features that really round out the package, enabling the Garmin Forerunner 35 to win our award for Best Buy.

Performance Comparison


The Forerunner 35 gives you three data fields during the activity. The data fields can be customized according to what data you would like to see.
The Forerunner 35 gives you three data fields during the activity. The data fields can be customized according to what data you would like to see.

Features


As we mentioned, the Forerunner 35 has basics and a few nice luxury features. So not only do you get the built-in hardware with GPS satellite support, an optical heart rate monitor and an accelerometer, you also get the ability to sync with a chest strap heart rate monitor, a foot pod and a cycling speed and cadence sensor. What that means is, when you want more running or cycling dynamics, you can get them using your existing sensors or by getting a new sensor — you don't have to buy a new watch. That is what we love about the Forerunner 35, it is a watch that can grow with you as your training gets more serious.

On the software side, you get the must-haves of a GPS watch, namely GPS tracking, speed, distance, interval training, auto and manual lap, heart rate, heart rate zones, pace, and cadence. On the nice to haves side, there are some nice activity analytics. You get LiveTrack, VO2 Max and Auto Pause. LiveTrack is a safety feature that we love. It allows your friends and family to track you during your activity, in live time. For people that run at night or alone on the trails, this can really give you and your loved ones peace of mind. It also can make a race more of a fun family activity since they can see exactly where they need to go to cheer you on when you are about to run by!


VO2 Max is a metric used by serious athletes to determine their aerobic capacity. It measures the cardiorespiratory fitness of an individual, which dictates your endurance capacity. The watch calculates this as you use it, which gives you a very definable metric to judge your performance improvement! The Auto Pause feature on the Forerunner 35 is really helpful for those of you that run or bike in the city. If you stop at a red light, the watch stops recording. This means that once you get your data at the end of the activity, your average pace or speed will not be influenced by the stop lights that were out of your control.

Outside of activities, Garmin added the daily tracking features such as calories burned, steps, sleep monitoring and what they call "Move IQ." This is a cool feature that tracks your activity without you having to push the buttons to track it. Essentially it just gives you the minutes of your bike ride or run (the software recognizes your body movements to log the correct activity), and then you can see these minutes cycling or running in your Garmin Connect profile. This is perhaps useful if you tend to run errands on foot or bike.

The final nice to haves that Garmin added are really the icing on the cake that make this a basic smartwatch, as opposed to just a GPS watch. They include smart notifications, weather, find my phone and some great music controls…well, at least on Android! Just take your phone with you in your pocket, and you never have to take it out because you can control your music from the Forerunner 35. Pretty cool. This is one reason that the Forerunner 35 won the Best Buy Award over its more expensive competitor, the Polar M430.

The Forerunner 35 offers a nice array of features.
The Forerunner 35 offers a nice array of features.

Ease of Use


There is normally a direct correlation between the number of features and ease of use when it comes to GPS watches. Fewer features mean fewer options to scroll through, less data to be displayed and fewer buttons. The Forerunner 35 is not about less though. Garmin has managed to add some nice features into a tiny package without making it more complicated. Four buttons are clearly labeled so users do not get confused with the functions and scrolling through the menus on the screen was intuitive and easy.


Although these buttons are a bit more difficult to use during activities due to their small size, all of our testers preferred them to the super large buttons on the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire and Suunto Baro 9. Basically, these small buttons are worth fiddling with on occasion, in exchange for not getting stabbed by larger buttons while doing push-ups.

Syncing to Garmin Connect app is easy. So is syncing to a phone so you can receive smartwatch notifications.

Battery Life


Because of its small size, we expected the battery life to suffer substantially on the Forerunner 35. We were wrong. It outperformed the Polar M430 and the Garmin Forerunner 235. We had no problem getting two weeks out of the Forerunner 35 in normal usage mode (i.e., running 2 or 3 times a week for about an hour and using the watch daily with smart notifications) and over 12 hours in activity mode! This means that if you want to run your 50-70k ultras using the Forerunner 35, its battery should last the distance (depending on your speed of course). We were also able to charge the watch using an external battery during the activity so if you want to go even longer, you can.


We think that the normal usage battery life is fairly impressive, despite its small size, due to the black and white limited screen resolution. This is a far cry from the screens of Garmin's more expensive Forerunners 935 and even the 235. What surprised us was that it also beat out the Polar M430 which is a much larger watch but also has a black and white screen. We guess that Polar did not use the space in the watch design to implement a larger battery.

The Forerunner 35 (green track) isn't the most accurate GPS watch we tested  but it works well. Here we show it alongside the Forerunner 235's pink track.
The Forerunner 35 (green track) isn't the most accurate GPS watch we tested, but it works well. Here we show it alongside the Forerunner 235's pink track.

Accuracy


Because the Forerunner 35 is quite small, it has a smaller GPS antenna. Also, it is only compatible with GPS satellites, as opposed to its more expensive cousins, the Forerunner 935 or even the Forerunner 235, that both also support GLONASS. What this results in, is a slightly less accurate device. Despite this, we found it to be surprisingly accurate.


In our testing, the Forerunner 35 was usually about 6% off in distances as compared to the more expensive and more accurate Forerunner 935. The maps from the GPX tracks showed us in the water instead of running over a bridge, but the line always seemed to emulate the more expensive watches. The GPS was just about 3 yards off when recording the track.

Design


The Forerunner 35's design is not going to win any awards, but it is a very comfortable and small watch. What that means is, it fits under all jackets that we tried, it did not smother any tester's wrist, and the buttons did not bother us when bending a lot at the wrist. It was so light we forgot about it. And, because it is so flat, we did not accidentally bang it against things like we did with the Polar M430 or some of the larger, more feature-laden watches like the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or Suunto Baro 9.


Ease of Set-Up


Although the Coros Pace was the easiest watch to set-up, the Forerunner 35 held its own. Upon unboxing, the watch itself had about 25% charge. We downloaded the Garmin Connect App and were able to quickly sync the watch to the app, as well as download the firmware updates in a few minutes. We did not require any instructions for this because it was all very up front.


Due to the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple sweetie) nature of the Forerunner 35, there are not many customization options, which also simplified the set-up. Again, sometimes less is more and in this case, we found it refreshing to not have to bother with all of the ins and outs of a more complicated watch.

The Forerunner 35 is a small and comfortable watch.
The Forerunner 35 is a small and comfortable watch.

Best Applications


The Forerunner 35 is an excellent entry-level GPS watch or a watch for an athlete who likes to track data but is not techy. It also is an excellent watch for someone with a small wrist or someone who is color blind. Some watches gave data such as GPS signal acquisition or heart rate zones using color changes. If you are color blind, we can highly recommend the Forerunner 35.

Value


The 35 wins our best buy award hands down because it is really at an unbeatable price when you consider all of the nice to have features it offers for a GPS watch. It is also a great introduction to the world of Garmin. So if you do decide to upgrade, you do not have to switch your entire platform or app. There is a lot in this little watch. We have no reservations about recommending it.

Conclusion


If price or simplicity is important to you when considering a GPS watch, you cannot go wrong with the Forerunner 35. It covers all the basics you need to improve your performance with some additional bonuses that are surprising in such an affordable package.


Larin McPeak