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Garmin Forerunner 35 review

by RunningPip
Monday 21st November 2016
A convenient combination of activity tracker and athletes GPS, this watch provides a good middle ground for those that only want to wear one device.  It’s got all the functionality most runners and cyclists will need in a watch, it looks good, and is priced at the more affordable end of the market. 
Disclosures:  we were lent this watch to test, and I am typically in the Suunto corner of the ongoing Garmin vs Suunto debate.
I was just heading out of the door for a run when this watch arrived, so I put it on, and left the house.  A few intuitive button clicks later, and we’re off, running and recording GPS as well as heart rate.  As a test of ease of use, the Forerunner passed with flying colours, and this is the theme throughout.  Whilst it isn’t necessarily an all-singing, all-dancing GPS watch, what it does, I think it does very well.
There are some great things about the recently released Garmin Forerunner 35, and I was quite surprised at the number of features and amount of functionality you get for a watch aimed at the lower end of the market.  Run wise, you get GPS tracking, interval timer, laps, auto pause, alerts for distance, as a fitness tracker, features available include heart rate monitoring, steps, step goal and exercise time goal alerts, sleep tracking.  You also get the basics of a smart watch, with music control features and some notifications.  It’s comfortable to wear, has a good battery life, and looks pretty good.  Overall, it’s a great piece of kit.

Garmin collage 1

Things we liked about it
Very easy to use – as alluded to, going for your first run is straightforward - one press of a button takes you to Run Outdoors, then press enter and wait for GPS to pick up, then press Start! Other sports modes (Indoor running, cycling, cardio sessions) are just one button push away from this set up.
Finds GPS quickly – Most of the time, this was no problem, and I think it was accurate.
Interval modes – one of my favourite features was the ease of setting up an interval timer on the watch.  Set up your work time, rest time, (or distance, or Heart Rate zone) and it will beep and vibrate at you when it’s time to change.

Garmin collage 2

The heart rate monitor uses a built in sensor, and is on all the time.  This provides resting HR, as well as current and resting heart rate displays as standard, and current, average and heart rate zone available whist in exercise.  I didn’t do a comparison with any other device to compare heart rate monitoring, but it does seem to work well for resting heart rates.  Often my exercise HR profile looks a little strange, but I’ve seen that happen on other devices measuring my heart too, so I’m not surprised.
Upload of data to Garmin via cable, and Garmin Express worked well.  I could not get the watch to pair with my iphone 6 using Bluetooth, so I couldn’t check the syncing function properly.  My son managed fine on his android, so it did work for some, but not for me.
‘Move’ alerts – it buzzes at you if it thinks you haven’t moved enough recently.  This is a nice feature, although when in work meetings it can be a little frustrating… I wish I had a non-office based job.
Goals / targets – you can set your step or exercise time goals in the Garmin Connect app or program, and the watch will let you know when you hit them.  There is also the option of letting it give you ever increasing targets that it thinks you can do, and it will work it out for you.
Battery life – 12 days in just normal wearing.  13 hours using GPS tracking (I managed to test for 8hrs and got to 30% battery, so the 13 is realistic).  Once connected to the charger, it  charges quickly, and will do a full charge in about an hour.
Works a bit like a smart phone.  Apparently you can use it to control music, get weather notifications and other smart watch like actions.  I couldn’t get the watch to pair, so could not test this functionality.
The strap is very comfortable and you can wear it as an everyday watch, not just a sports watch… It’s thin enough so it will fit under the cuff of a shirt without problem.
The display is clear, and it’s usually obvious what’s going on, what you are looking at.  Set all up in Garmin connect.  You get 3 data fields on each of 2 screens, and you choose what to have where.
Things I didn’t like 
Pairing with iPhone 6+ was problematic.
Personally I don’t really like the smart phone look, but it fits well on the wrist, and is comfortable.
Finger print smudges appear easily on the screen, but I think that is what you get with these smart watch type things.
It’s fairly basic in what it provides compared to watches on the more expensive end of the scale, but it does provide most, if not all, of what you’d need at a very reasonable price.
How easy to set up?
Very easy to set up.  Few button clicks to tell it what you want to do, and it will record your activity, and heart rate automatically.
Apparently it will also spot when you are doing an activity it recognises, and record it anyway.  I didn’t see it doing this during my testing.  There are options on the Garmin app that will allow you to put in heart rate zones and so on.
Ease of use during exercise?
Very – once running, the displays are easy to see and understand, and you can scroll though the various measurements, which come with a description screen for 1 second, before it changes to the actual results.
Usefulness of data
Good, very good I think.  All syncs automatically to Strava too, so you can see it all as you want.  The heart rate was the most interesting for me, having an always on sensor was quite interesting.
Battery life
At 13 recording hours, this should be okay for most people.  12 days normal wearing is also pretty good, considering how quickly the watch recharges once plugged in.
How would it help your running?
Ease of access to data, interval timings and heart rate recording and display would definitely help my running and training plans.

Garmin collage 3

How easy to download data?
I struggled to sync the watch with my phone, which was annoying, but attaching the charging clip worked fine for me, and the data uploads to Garmin connect, and that syncs with Strava automatically, which was perfect for me.
Overall, this gets a score of 8 / 10.  An easy to use, multi-function watch that gives you clear displays of activities, and a lot of easy to access data.  Reasonably affordable, and well presented, I would be happy to wear and use this watch on a regular basis.

Priced at £169.99

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