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Garmin Forerunner 935 Review

The Forerunner 935 has a ton of features and long battery life but still offers a comfortable size for most wrists.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $500 List | $499.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Light and slim, tons of features, accurate, great battery life
Cons:  Expensive, no internal music storage
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Larin McPeak ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 28, 2019
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90
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Features - 35% 10
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Battery Life - 15% 9
  • Accuracy - 15% 9
  • Design - 5% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 935 won our Editor's Choice Award in 2018 so we went ahead and tested it against a whole new set of competitors in 2019 and guess what? That is right! The Forerunner 935 again swept the rest of the competition under the rug to win the top prize. Garmin manufactured a watch that seems to be the perfect balance of everything — features, design, ease of use, battery life and accuracy. All of that packaged into a lightweight but durable housing with an uber comfortable band and fit for all of our testers, whether petite or large. The Forerunner 935 is not the cheapest watch in our test, but if you are a serious athlete looking for a watch that can provide you with the metrics and performance you need, you should look no further.

With solid battery life during activities or normal use and a long list of available features, you cannot go wrong with the Forerunner 935. If, however, you are looking for a rock-solid GPS watch with fewer features and an easier-to-swallow price tag, check out our Best Buy, the Garmin Forerunner 35.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award  
Price $499.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$499.99 at Amazon
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$750.00 at REI
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$300 List$347.74 at Amazon
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Pros Light and slim, tons of features, accurate, great battery lifeComprehensive, good battery life, and excellent app data managementUnbelievable number of features, background navigation mapping, pulse oximeterComfortable, long battery life, good value, user friendlyComprehensive, great battery life for the features
Cons Expensive, no internal music storageHeavy, expensiveHeavy, large on the wrist, expensiveNo navigation, no upload-able workouts, not as customizable as a GarminNo on-device heart rate sensor, bulky
Bottom Line 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.If you want the most features-packed watch around, this is it.A great value watch that will not confuse the non-techy athlete.A fully featured device for the discerning user.
Rating Categories Garmin Forerunner 935 Garmin Fenix 5 Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Features (35%)
10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
10
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6
10
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9
Ease Of Use (25%)
10
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8
10
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8
10
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7
10
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10
10
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7
Battery Life (15%)
10
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9
10
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9
10
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9
10
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10
10
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8
Accuracy (15%)
10
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9
10
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7
10
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9
10
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8
10
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9
Design (5%)
10
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8
10
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6
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6
10
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6
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4
Ease Of Set Up (5%)
10
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7
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5
Specs Garmin Forerunner... Garmin Fenix 5 Garmin Fenix 5X... Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Main body size 47 mm diameter, 13.9 mm thickness 45mm diameter, 14 mm thickness 51mm width, 17.5mm thick 45mm, 13.7mm 56 mm diameter, 18 mm thickness
Weight, Verified 49g 85g 96g 49g 87g
Battery Type Lithium ion Rechargeable lithium-ion Recharable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargeable lithium ion
Manufacturer-reported Battery Life Up to 2 weeks Up to 2 weeks Up to 20 days, GPS: Up to 32 hrs
GPS & Music: Up to 13 hrs
UltraTrac: To 70 hr
Up to 30 days 14 days
Navigation Features? Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks and has a background map "Back to start" or track-back Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks
HR Monitor? Yes Yes, optical wrist sensor, with optional chest strap yes Yes Yes, optional chest strap
Sleep tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Step counting? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Button Lock? Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Smartwatch features Notifications only Notifications only Notifications and limited interaction Notifications only Notifications only

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Forerunner 935 beat out its more expensive cousin, the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire to win our Editors' Choice Award. Although both of these watches are Garmin's flagships, the Forerunner 935 is much smaller and lighter than the Fenix 5x Plus, but our test results showed it to be just as accurate. The Forerunner 935 does have fewer features and less activity tracking battery life than the Fenix, but it also has a significantly lower price tag, a much lighter weight, a smaller size, and a longer normal use battery life.

Performance Comparison


The main watch face screen of the Forerunner 935 can hold its own in a professional meeting  as well as keep us posted on our daily activity status.
The main watch face screen of the Forerunner 935 can hold its own in a professional meeting, as well as keep us posted on our daily activity status.

Features


Packed full of features, the Forerunner 935 does not disappoint. Comparable to the other watches in our review, the 935 provides pace, cadence, elevation gain/loss, training effect, calories, VO2 Max, stride length, SWOLF, workout alerts, interval training, open water swim metrics, steps and sleep monitoring.

The optical heart rate monitor proved to be more reliable than some of its competitors, such as the Garmin Forerunner 35 but you can also connect to an external heart rate strap, power meter, etc., which communicate using ANT+. It also has smartwatch notifications and music controls for your phone. It does not offer internal music storage. For that, you have to go to the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or the Apple Watch Series 4.


One spot where the Forerunner 935 shines over the cheaper watches, including the Garmin Forerunner 235 or the Coros Pace, is in the navigation. You can upload GPX files to the 935 and follow them. This is a huge benefit over all of the other tested watches outside of the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or Suunto Baro 9, which also offer this feature. This is an awesome feature if you want to make your own routes to follow or want to import routes from other people or sources (for example from GPSies.com or for an ultra event). The 935 also has a barometric altimeter that will record your elevation gains and losses accurately.

The Forerunner 935's super accurate gpx tracks from our castle tour runs in Germany really impressed us.
The Forerunner 935's super accurate gpx tracks from our castle tour runs in Germany really impressed us.

Garmin App and the Garmin Connect Web Platform


The Garmin App and Garmin Connect web platform are probably the most robust of the brands we tested. We loved being able to build customized workouts to sync with the Forerunner 935. The feature will alert us when it's time to move from sprints to recover or to switch from backstroke to freestyle with a vibration or a tone.

If we're out on lengthy, heart rate zone 2, training for an ultramarathon, we could program the workout and sync it to the Forerunner 935 so that anytime we fell below or exceeded the specified heart rate zone, the watch would beep or vibrate. This allows us to stay in our planned zone without having to constantly look at the watch.

Here we show the daily report page (left) and the build a workout page (right) of the Garmin app.
Here we show the daily report page (left) and the build a workout page (right) of the Garmin app.

Many of the medium to upper price range Garmin watches have access to this indispensable training tool offered by Garmin connect. The Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire and Forerunner 235 both support customized workout syncing. The lower price range model, the Garmin Forerunner 35, does not support this feature but does sync with the same Garmin app and uses the same interface.

Thousands of apps and widgets are available to download through Garmin and 3rd party developers. You can customize the features, face and tracking options in a seemingly infinite way on the Forerunner 935. The Apple Watch Series 4 is the only watch we tested that compares. That said, when tracking activities, the Forerunner 935 offers more dynamics and metrics than the Series 4.

The Forerunner 935 provides up to four customizable data fields for activity tracking.
The Forerunner 935 provides up to four customizable data fields for activity tracking.

Ease of Use


For the number of features it provides, the Forerunner 935 is still very easy to use. Navigating through the various features and menus is intuitive. With five labeled buttons around the bezel, learning which button does what is not a problem. The interface is highly customizable as well. The sheer number of widgets and apps available from Garmin can be daunting at first, but if you start by using the native features of the watch, you get the hang of it pretty quickly.


The buttons are large and easy to use while running, but they stick out of the watch less than the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or the Suunto Baro 9. This sleek shape increased comfort substantially when bending at the wrist or even pulling a jacket over the watch. The buttons on our Best Buy winner, the Garmin Forerunner 35 are even flatter, but they occasionally proved difficult for our testers with larger fingers to use.

Battery life can be a concern when running an ultra marathon but not with the Forerunner 935!
Battery life can be a concern when running an ultra marathon but not with the Forerunner 935!

Battery Life


We were truly impressed with the battery life of the Forerunner 935, especially because the physical size of the watch is much thinner and lighter than some of its competitors.

Measuring battery life is a complicated task because different watch features and functions affect battery life in different ways. GPS, for example, really sucks battery juice quickly. Another thing that is a huge drain on the battery is constant vibration notifications or tone notifications. So if you are the type of person that gets texts all day and keeps your notifications function on the watch set to "on," be aware that your battery will drain a lot quicker.


Garmin claims the Forerunner 935 will last up to two weeks in normal "watch mode" and up to 24 hours in GPS mode. Surprisingly, we found that in watch mode, the battery lasted longer than two weeks. Even with occasional activity use (runs), we could still get up to 9 or 10 days out of it! This is very impressive.

For our ultra-endurance athlete friends, we also tested the battery life during a non-stop run activity and found that it lasted just over 23 hours!! That means that unless you are competing in the longest of ultra events, you should not have to carry an external battery with you. This watch will last. Please note that we did turn off phone notifications when testing this battery metric. If you are participating in ultra events exceeding 23 hours, you can hook this watch up to your external battery, and it does not disrupt the activity recording.

The Forerunner 935 (orange track) vs. the Coros Pace (green track). You can see the 935 kept us on the bridge and out of the water but also had us on the correct side of the road  as opposed to the middle.
The Forerunner 935 (orange track) vs. the Coros Pace (green track). You can see the 935 kept us on the bridge and out of the water but also had us on the correct side of the road, as opposed to the middle.

Accuracy


The Forerunner 935 proved to be one of the most accurate models we tested, and this bore out throughout our training. The accuracy was analogous to that of the more expensive Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire. It is perhaps even a bit better at optical heart rate monitoring. We believe this was because it fit the testers better, due to its smaller and lighter design.


The GPX file mapping tracks that the 935 recorded were also highly accurate. More specifically, when we reviewed our maps of the GPX tracks after our runs, we were always on the bridges, as opposed to swimming next to them. And when we were next to rivers, the Forerunner 935 showed us on the path, as opposed to in the water.

We were also highly impressed with the heart rate monitor. It usually recorded heart rates that were in line with those our chest strap monitor recorded during runs (within 2%). Its response time to a quick jump in heart rate (such as during a HIIT training session) is not as speedy as the chest strap, but still almost immediate.

The heart rate activity data field screen for the Forerunner 935 uses a color system for each heart rate zone.
The heart rate activity data field screen for the Forerunner 935 uses a color system for each heart rate zone.

Ease of Set-up


Similar to all of the Garmins, the set up was relatively easy. The nice thing with Garmin products is that they automatically register with the first sync. We did not notice any other manufacturers offering this, so were required to register our devices manually.


Basically, you download the Garmin Connect app and then follow the instructions on the phone and watch. The watch had about 25% charge out of the box, which is more than enough to set it up and maybe go for an hour run.

Although the speed of set-up was not as impressive as the Coros Pace, it was still much much quicker than the Apple Watch Series 4 (the slowest set-up in our test). It was on par with the rest of the watches. The Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire was also slower due to the background maps download).

The Forerunner 935 (left) is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the Fenix 5x Plus (right).
The Forerunner 935 (left) is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the Fenix 5x Plus (right).

Design


The Forerunner 935 is not the smallest watch that we tested, but it comfortably fit on all testers, even the ones with very petite wrists. At 49g, when compared to the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire (96g) or the Suunto Baro 9, (81g) the 935 feels as light as a feather! We were also excited that a watch so packed with features could still fit under our tighter running jacket sleeves, something that neither of the competitors mentioned above got even close to achieving.


To top it off, Garmin managed to keep the screen size comfortably large. We had no problems seeing all the data during our activities. Similar to most of the higher end Garmins, the 935 watch band allows it to lay flat on your wrist. It also has slots all the way around, so even a person with a tiny wrist can tighten the band adequately.

The face design has a bezel made of a fiber reinforced polymer, which gives it a more finished and high-quality look than the Garmin Forerunner 235. The five buttons are low profile enough that you will not get stabbed doing your push-ups! Wearing the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or the Baro Suunto 9 during push-ups resulted in some bruising on the back of our hands due to their buttons.

We also found the width of the band quite nice. The 935 is only about 21mm, while the Fenix 5x Plus is 26mm and the Suunto Baro 9 had about 24mm of width. This difference does not sound like much, but it certainly makes a difference with sweat accumulation.

The Forerunner 935's buttons are easy to use and low profile enough to keep your wrist comfortable.
The Forerunner 935's buttons are easy to use and low profile enough to keep your wrist comfortable.

Best Applications


Garmin markets the 935 mostly to runners and triathletes, but it excels in so many other sports as well. Due to the vast amount of sport activity profiles that you can download and the wide availability of tracking features, we think the 935 is truly an all-around winner in the world of GPS watches.

Value


For $500, we think you get a lot of watch. Ultra athletes and long distance triathletes will truly benefit from the long battery life and the extensive features list. More petite athletes will not feel swallowed by the size of the watch, and larger athletes will appreciate an optimized screen face with a very lightweight design.

There are multiple ways to customize the data fields on the Forerunner 935.
There are multiple ways to customize the data fields on the Forerunner 935.

If you are not ready to spend this much on your GPS watch, perhaps start with our award-winning Best Buy, the Garmin Forerunner 35, or the high-value Coros Pace. It will get you started in the Garmin world, and when you choose, you can seamlessly upgrade to the 935.

Conclusion


Garmin is the market leader in GPS watches, and there are reasons for this. With the Garmin Forerunner 935, they packaged a long list of features into a lightweight, sleek looking smartwatch. Whether you are an Ironman, an ultra runner or a recreational runner, you will not be disappointed in the accuracy, the customization or the performance of the 935. The Forerunner 935 will make you want to up your game.


Larin McPeak