Garmin's new Forerunner 935 is a top-of-the-line triathlon watch designed for serious athletes and people who deeply care about using training statistics to improve their racing performance when it counts.
The Forerunner 935 is designed for elite athletes who are at the top of their game, and this is reflected in the calibre of technology that this watch boasts. It features a built-in barometer and altimeter to provide elevation changes and monitors your performance so that you are alerted if you are undertraining or overdoing it. Very technical features such as ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio, and even more truly set this watch apart from its competitors and show how it would make the perfect companion to a dedicated athlete.
This watch, like other watches in the Forerunner series, features wrist-based heart rate monitoring and all-day activity tracking such as step count so that you can track your progress all day and even all night. It's waterproof so that you can wear it swimming, and offers both indoor and outdoor options for all three disciplines- swimming, cycling, and running. The multisport features mean you can switch sports at the touch of a button and use it for brick workouts as well as triathlon races.
The battery life on other Garmin watches such as the Forerunner 735XT is a little questionable as it doesn't seem to last as long as you'd expect from a triathlon watch, however on the 935 that definitely isn't an issue. The Forerunner 935 boasts a 2-week battery life when used just as a watch, and up to 24 hours in GPS mode meaning you could complete a full ironman or ultra marathon while tracking and not have to worry about losing your progress.
Weighing in at 49g, this watch is a little heavier than some of its siblings like the 735XT, and the watch face is much larger meaning it is not quite as suitable as an everyday activity tracker or even just as a watch. It has an extra button too which means it's a little more complicated to use, however this just reflects the fact that this watch is not designed for your everyday gym goer and is meant to be used thoroughly and to its full potential by a competitive athlete or coach.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is an exquisite piece of technology and features advanced training information which is sure to boost the performance of its wearer if used correctly. Its attractive design means it can be worn all day, and the built-in heart rate monitor and step tracker means it even covers the all-day activity tracker market that is so popular at the moment. It's definitely not for the faint hearted and is better suited for serious athletes and prolific competitors in the sport of running, cycling, and triathlon. It loses a few marks from me as it's a little too big to be comfortable all day, and the rubber strap meant I got a sweat rash from continuing to wear it for long periods of time after training. However, the technical information remains unbeatable and very impressive.
Battery Life: 9
Technical Information: 10
Value for money: 10
Overall Score: 46/50
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT delivers everything you could want from a triathlon watch and more. It is designed for elite athletes and people who are serious about their training progress, but it is suitable for the more casual exerciser too. It provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring, all-day activity tracking, and will take you from one sport to another with just the touch of a button.
The 735XT is more than just a running watch. It records your stride length, time balance, and more while running (although many of the running metrics features are only available when the watch is paired with a chest-based heart rate monitor), and will calculate your VO2 Max and predict race times based on your training history. It also offers lactate threshold estimates but, again, you will need an additional chest-based heart rate monitor for this which is not included in your £399 purchase of the watch.
The Forerunner 735XT is smart and will connect to your phone seamlessly through Bluetooth to provide notifications from your phone, automatic uploads to Garmin’s online community, and live tracking of your training. Syncing the watch with your phone is very easy and has worked every time without any issues for me. The GPS signal is very strong and the watch links up very quickly so that you can get on with your sport without having to wait around for your watch to be ready.
As a multisport watch, the 735XT is not as advanced as some of its siblings like the 935, but it still provides excellent support. It has a triathlon function so that you can time your transitions and switch between sports with just one press of a button. This feature also translates to duathlons and brick workouts for your training. If you only run, then this watch is perhaps too unnecessarily advanced for you, and you'd be better suited to a Forerunner 235.
The all-day activity tracking is a fantastic bonus feature on this advanced watch. The wrist-based heart rate monitor works all day while you’re wearing it and will provide you with a resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, and a graph of activity over the last 4 hours. This is really useful for heart-rate zone training, especially as the stats provided after your workout will tell you how long you were in each heart rate zone while you were active. The watch also provides you with an estimated VO2 max which is great for serious athletes. Part of the all-day activity tracking also includes step count which can be a great incentive to move more, especially on rest days. The watch also syncs with apps like MyFitnessPal so that your daily calorie burn is automatically taken into account when you track your food for the day.
A Closer Look
The watch itself is light at 41g and the watch face is not as big as some of the other Garmin watches like the 235 or 935, so it is better suited for all-day wear. It has a rubberised strap for comfort, although once you're super sweaty after a tough workout, you don’t really want to keep it on as it gets a bit uncomfortable. The various displays are user-friendly and although the watch has a lot of features, they’re easy to find so you don’t feel like you're missing out on useful training information.
The battery life of this watch could be better, especially as it’s designed to be used for triathlons; I wonder whether it could last a full-length Ironman event.
On the whole, I am so impressed by this watch. Garmin has found the perfect balance between the casual running watch and the advanced athlete's companion. It gives more than its cheaper counterpart the 235 and is more user-friendly than the more advanced 935. It is perfect for serious triathletes but can also comfortably be used by people who may just be getting into the sport or who just like to swim, bike, and run. It has the option of more advanced training stats if you really want to go into them while keeping the useful everyday information at the ready.
Battery Life: 6
Technical Information: 9
Value for money: 10
Overall Score: 44/50
‘Forerunner’ - noun - ‘One that precedes, as in time; a predecessor’.
Garmin introduces their new mentor, the Forerunner 235, the watch for runners that is constantly listening to your body and second guessing the next move. True to its name this watch can even predict your next race time. The Forerunner 235 is designed with a purpose, to bring out the best runner in you.
Unboxing and Appearance
In the box comes your device, quick start manual and USB charger. This is my first Garmin wearable, so I leapt straight into the quickstart guide, which is simple whilst still giving you enough information to get the ‘jist’ of the watch. In hindsight, the quickstart guide is incredibly humble to the multitude of features within the watches fully loaded capabilities, but it does what it says on the tin.
The watch itself looks more mainstream than most fitness watches though its plastic strap is a bit of a giveaway. The digital watch face is large and clear measuring 4 cm, with plenty of room for lots of readings to be detailed on the main watch face. The watches five buttons are streamlined to the watch face but easy to select when needed. Despite its large size the watch weighs in at just 42g, making it one of Garmin’s lightest watches yet. The watch strap features multiple holes to provide a close fit and despite its large screen, the watch sits comfortably on my small wrist, without looking as ‘bulky’ as some of its competitors.
The USB charger features a small bulldog clip, which attaches to the side of the watch face, particularly useful to ensure the watch and charger remain attached even if they get knocked during charging.
Heart Rate Training
Before we explore any of the other functions, let us first give the watch a chance to show what it claims it’s best at, being your training partner. Starting a training session is easy, you simply select the run button, and can then opt for run, run indoors, bike or other. The watch finds your heart rate almost immediately, which I was very pleasantly surprised by. It was the same with the GPS, in fact, I found that 9/10 times my watch had already vibrated an alert to tell me GPS was ready before I headed outside. Once in training, there were 5 data fields to scroll through, the main being your heart rate screen, which colour codes your reading to your level of intensity. Your heart rate is presented clearly throughout your workout and I found it to be (for the most part) very effective when worn above the wrist bone. Scroll through for distance, time, pace, heart rate zone and lap readings. These are the automatic fields which the watch sets users up with, however as with almost every feature of this watch, these are customisable so the user can view other data such as cadence or temperature. It’s worth experimenting with the features until you find the ones best suited to your training style, with so many there’s bound to be some you find useful. For further testing of the heart rates accuracy against strap-based readings read our other review.
Once your workout's complete the watch works it’s magic to estimate the amount of recovery time needed for your body to recuperate from the activity. This is a really useful tool for anyone developing their training routine or even to test the effectiveness of their current habits. By knowing what recovery is required the user can manage their workload accordingly and plan the intensity of their next session to achieve the most benefits from their performance.
The Forerunners training features run so far beyond basic heart rate recording, they lap it.
From the watch itself, users can opt for training intervals or finish time. Training interval workouts are based on distance or time. Wearer’s can then set their work to rest intervals and for how many repetitions or with an open-ending. This feature is great as it eliminates the need for using a separate app to count your intervals as well as preventing any human error or even dare I say it, cheating.
The other feature which can be utilised straight from the watch is 'finish time'. After you’ve tracked a few runs with the watch and you’ve got to know each other a little, I’m talking, at least, third date, the Forerunner will be able to predict your race times for different distances including 5 and 10k. It can also predict your VO2 max for both running and cycling, which can help make sure your fitness levels are improving.
By connecting with Garmin Connect, advanced users can enter a training programme into their workout calendar or even download and follow workouts from the Garmin Connect IQ (which has plenty of choices) via the ‘my workouts’ key on the watch itself.
Garmin Connect and Garmin Connect IQ
The Garmin Connect app is simple and easy to use, its dazzling dashboard greets you with your days ‘snapshots’, which allow users to scroll through their days overview quickly and efficiently, whilst they can also select for further analysis into each snapshot from workout data to calories consumed. As well as your watch and app feedback, Garmin users can also view even more stats on their training via Garmin connect.
When exploring the many features of the website, you'll notice your options mimic those in the app, but just with more detail, more widgets and more things to customise. The Connect IQ is one of those pages you think you’ll just have a quick look at and could end up losing yourself for hours on end.
24/7 Activity Tracking: The Watch Ready To Mend Your Mistakes
The Garmin is listening to your body all the time, constantly collecting data on your day’s performance including steps, calories, activities and food consumption (when entered or synced with Myfitnesspal).
In fact, the watch even responds well to human error. Let me paint the scene, I decided to take the watch through a spin class, as we start the warmup, I think I’ve pushed start on the watch. I watch my heart rate jump up to 130-140 BPM during the warm up and then the work begins, by track two I glance down to see my heart rate way up in the anaerobic threshold at 180 BPM. As the workout continues I can see my heart rate is high each time I glance down so by the time we reached the cool down track I couldn’t wait to see what feedback the watch would give me. This was the moment it then dawned on me, I’d pressed the heart rate button once and not twice. All that beautiful data at my anaerobic threshold lost, and let me tell you that’s no easy zone to be working at for 45 minutes! You can imagine my frustration, but, all's not lost, the Forerunner is prepared once again. Although I committed quite possibly the biggest (and clumsiest) sin of all heart rate monitoring, the watch still logged my heart rate throughout the session. Whilst due to my rather frustrating human error my daily snapshot won’t feature cycling as a separate activity, the 235 features a four-hour heart rate snapshot on the watch face itself and a daily view of your heart rate on Connect IQ, so no workout is ever untraceable.
As you can see, all was not lost! What's more, the watch also calculates your days ‘active calories’ which can give a good indication of how many calories you spent working out, even if you do fail to press go. Never again.
The average adult in the UK spends 7-10 hours of their day seated and research has shown it can lead us to an early grave, with official guidelines concluding it's crucial to supplement long durations of sitting with a short burst of activity. See the full statistics here: http://www.sundried.com/blogs/training/75576453-workout-at-work-top-exercises-at-your-desk-to-prevent-health-issues. Garmin’s move alerts prompt you with a gentle vibration after long periods of inactivity to get up and get moving. A red bar appears and you must move until the bar disappears, a simple concept that could improve your lifespan. I certainly found the vibrations useful as it’s easy to get engrossed in work and forget to add these bursts of short activity, which ultimately improve your wellbeing.
During the initial profiling of the Garmin your regular sleeping patterns are entered and from then on the watch is able to monitor your sleep and also stop move notifications continuing whilst you’re not awake. The watch automatically detects between light and deep sleep, as well as the total amount of time spent asleep. This is a great feature to help monitor and perhaps improve performance, with sleep being vital to aid mental and physical fatigue and recovery.
This watch has so many features, even the features have features. From customisable stride length to watch faces and downloadable widgets.
Lose your phone? Not to worry your Forerunner will find it for you. Want to go for a run before the next downpour? Check the Forerunners hourly weather updates for your location.
Smart notifications allow the wearer to scroll through emails, texts, WhatsApp messages and even answer or reject phone calls via the watch itself. The extra features of the watch I’ve explored in this review are just a snapshot of what this watch is capable of, the watch is equipped with so much data it is sure to suit any training personality.
If you’ve got the time to master its vast array of data, this watch is almost faultless, providing precise heart rate and so much more. Whilst it is towards the higher price margin for fitness watches retailing at £269.99 on Garmin's website, with this device you get what you pay for. The Forerunner has the quantity of accurate data and the quality of Garmin, global leaders in their field.
Garmin Forerunner 235: The watch with enough features to write your next thesis...if only it had been around whilst I was at University.
Love the idea of using a heart rate monitor but don't want the hassle of a chest strap? Then here is the watch for you. The Mio Alpha 2 is designed to give you all the benefits of heart rate training at your wrist allowing you to train smarter. Commit, connect, monitor and improve your training intensity with this heart rate sports watch.
In the Box
The watch comes in a small white box like all the rest of the Mio family, equipped with the watch itself, your quickstart guide and foldable USB charger. First things first, you need to charge the device, which is simple and easy to do by unfolding the handy charging clip and attaching it to your watches magnetic strip which sits behind the watch face, after a few hours of charging your watch is ready and raring to go. The battery can last up to 24 hours in training mode, or Mio claim the battery can provide up to three months of life in regular mode, but who buys a fitness watch and doesn’t use the heart rate for three months? You’d be missing out on this watches best feature.
Mio Alpha 2 Boxed
The Alpha 2 look is quite clearly a sports watch, with its digital face and silicone strap. Its chunky design dominated my small wrists, but the strap features breathing holes which double up as fasteners, which meant that I was still able to fit the watch snugly around my wrist, this is vital for accurate heart rate readings, but try not to tighten it to the point you cut off your circulation. These holes are very useful for adjusting the watch precisely, as well as allowing your skin to breathe. The large LED screen is clear and easy to read at a glance during activity, even without my glasses, however, I do feel the watch is quite masculine and I can’t help but wonder if people think I’m wearing a man’s watch.
Once it’s charged, you press and hold any button to activate your MIO ALPHA 2. Whilst this may seem simple enough, I feel it is important to mention that the buttons are so well integrated into the side of the watches design, that initially I found them hard to find. I also had difficulty with the screen and buttons sensitivity. The buttons are quite hard to select, for example, the screen says it takes just two firm taps to activate its backlight, but it seemed to take multiple of my perhaps wimpier attempts, whilst this doesn’t depreciate from the watches performance, it can be frustrating when you just want to quickly start tracking or view your statistics and it took a little getting used to. The user then enters basic details such as age, weight and gender in order for the watch to calculate your training zones. Once I got used to the watched sensitivity, the integration of the buttons actually became one of the watches strengths as there was no opportunity for me to accidentally start workouts or hit buttons whilst I’m working, which I have experienced with other trackers.
Strapless Heart Rate Monitoring
To enter into heart rate mode with the Alpha 2, Mio recommend you wear the watch slightly higher up your wrist than you usually would for regular wear, in order to get the most accurate heart rate readings. When you are ready to work out, you simply press and hold the timer button until the watch beeps and flashes ‘find’ and the watch then begins its heart rate hunt. In my experience this hunt can last anywhere from 20 seconds to a few minutes, so it's worth starting the find a few minutes before your warm up to ensure your watch is ready to track whatever training you’re doing. Once you begin training the watch automatically picks up your heart rate and shows you which training zone you are working in throughout your session. The watch actually comes with two heart rate zone settings 5 zones and single zone, though it automatically begins monitoring in 5 zones mode. BPM is displayed throughout the workout in this setting and a small LED light flashes colour coded responses as you enter each of your different training zones, these mimic the colours users will become familiar with from data feedback provided on the Mio app’s graphs. During training, users can read their heart rate with a simple glance, or select the mode button to scroll through their time, calories, pace, distance, heart rate and timer.
Alpha 2 Set-Up Screens
I was impressed by the accuracy of the heart rate for a wrist-based watch. The heart rate seemed to keep up with me and match my level of exertion throughout training. The second way the Alpha 2 can be used for heart rate recognition is in single zone mode. Here the user sets up their desired heart rate target zone using the app and then begins training. If their heart rate drops above or below the desired zone, the watch gives a vibration alert, so the user can move back on target, like having a miniature personal trainer buzzing at your wrist.
Mio 2 Heart Rate Zones
Lap Timer, Pace and Distance
Despite it’s lack of a GPS tracker the Mio Alpha 2 does have a distance tracking feature, for which it uses 3 - axis accelerometer tracking, whilst this may not be as effective as GPS tracking, it’s a useful feature for giving an approximate distance, particularly for runners. The watch also has a lap timer and pace monitor, great for tracking the average speed of your run or challenging yourself to beat the last lap. A single press of the heart rate button during training marks ‘go’ and commences your first lap, pushing it again will start lap 2 and so on. The watch is also waterproof to 30m, so you can take your laps to the pool, or run without a worry in the rain.
Mio Alpha 2 Searching for Heart Rate
Mio Alpha 2 Displaying Heart Rate
With 24 hours workout data stored on the watch itself and your weeks training easily accessible on the app this watch is sure to enhance your training. I would recommend this watch as a first heart rate tracker for runners, or for those who don’t want to sift through lots of data as the watches feedback is simple and precise. Though the watch may not do as much as what other fitness watches, what this watch does do, it does well.
My final thought for the Mio Alpha 2? Quality not quantity.
The Garmin 630 is firstly a great GPS running watch, with basic smart functionality as an additional benefit. It is made for runners; and with a focus on a single activity (no distractions from tracking other sports) the watch delivers exceptionally well.
First, and foremost, the Garmin 630 is aimed at runners and that’s fine with me; it’s my activity of choice and I’m more than happy with a product dedicated solely to running.
The watch captures performance data exceptionally well when synced with the heart rate monitor (HRM). Personally I wouldn’t want to use the watch for running without it. The watch is too good to not make the most of its features. And the features only come to life when the HRM is used: data points like vertical oscillation, balance and ground contact time.
The activity-tracking feature is an additional bonus. I’ve also added lifestyle to incorporate sleep and inactivity too. I love to be reminded to move. When one works in an office and sits at a desk all day it can be far to easy to remain seated and still for hours sometimes. An hourly reminder can have a real positive effect – I like to take that as a hint to go and walk up and down at least 4 flights of stairs.
The sleep tracking is a nice touch, especially if you aren’t getting much sleep and want to know just how little you’ve had!
Garmin 630: The Pros
The watch is easy-to-use and can be used straight out of the box without needing instructions. It comes well presented and feels sturdy but pretty light.
Garmin GPS watches seem to be getting faster and faster at locking in on satellites. The 630 tended to take under 20 seconds regardless of location or weather, which is handy as it’s been pretty cold recently! So no waiting around trying to get a satellite lock is a big tick in my book.
I’ve always been happy with GPS mapping with Garmin products and this watch was no different. But where it was different was the additional data the watch recorded and the feedback that it provided.
I’ve only recently started getting back in to running after a good few months of taking it easy. The feedback the watch gave seemed highly effective and motivational. Notifications such as how long to rest until running again, how much I was improving, as well as providing additional data on oscillation and balance all made my runs that bit more rewarding. I could tell, for instance, that a slight hip discomfort was affecting my running when I reviewed a particular run’s data:
48.5% on the left, and 51.5% on the right.
I suspected that I may have been running slightly unevenly and this was the information I needed to give myself a few additional days off.
Additionally the battery life is phenomenal when compared to a smartwach such as an Apple Watch. I got well over a week from a single charge wearing the watch the whole time and using the smart functionality too.
To pair the watch with a smartphone (iPhone in my case) was nice and easy. Again, no need to look up how to do it. Get to the Bluetooth setting on the watch and use the app. Setting up notifications was also nice and easy. The notifications are basic and I would consider them as merely a nice-to-have. It would be unfair to pitch the watch as a smartwatch, it’s an impressive running watch with smart functionality as a bonus.
I really enjoyed my runs being automatically uploaded when I got home without even having to remember. My first reminder that I hadn’t uploaded my run was when I received my first Kudos on Strava! The seamless connection with the watch and smartphone (or Wi-Fi) meant no more having to sync up with a computer.
Once you’ve used the watch for a couple of weeks the features really start to stand out and performance improvement becomes easy to track. I liked being notified during runs that things were looking better from a stats perspective. I found them highly motivating and definitely encouraged me to run that little bit further, faster or both!
Garmin 630: The Cons
Unfortunately the watch does have some drawbacks. I would say some are subjective and others are due to technology or misfortune.
Subjectively the watch doesn’t have the finesse of some other day-to-day smartwatches. Personally I would prefer the watch to function well over being pleasing to the eye, however when priced at the higher end of the scale the styling could be a bit slicker and the Garmin branding more subtle.
For me though, the drawbacks were far more related to software glitches in the iPhone app, a major challenge trying to set the watch as an activity tracker and trying to update the firmware.
I set the watch up on Christmas day and there was clearly a surge in traffic to the Garmin servers as most of the features on the app were failing. So no new watch faces for a start. That was an unfortunate issue but clearly exceptionally high demand means that Garmin is becoming an ever-increasingly popular brand.
I really struggled to set the watch up as an activity tracker. The watch would record step count and let me know when to move, etc. but I could not activate the option on the app to set the watch as my activity tracker. Whenever I tried to set the watch up for activity tracking in the iPhone app I would receive the following error message: “Unable to set as activity tracker. Please try again.”
I restarted the watch and phone multiple times but just did not have any luck.
It was only when I eventually plugged the watch into my computer and used the Garmin Express program I discovered that my old Vivofit watch was my registered activity tracker and it needed to be deactivated before I could sync my step count with my phone. I could not find any information online of this bug and as my old Vivofit was not showing on the app I could not crack the issue without connecting to a computer.
I also had a challenge updating the firmware and the watch froze on the updating screen for hours. Eventually I turned the watch off and when I turned it back on the watch started instantly and the update had been applied. It was frustrating trying to live with the watch and having no functioning watch for over three hours while giving off the impression that an update was being processed.
I really liked the Garmin 630. It’s a great motivational tool that is comfortable and easy-to-use. The data that you can get from the watch is ideal whether you just like stats or whether you are using data to manage your training and goal tracking.
The touchscreen takes some getting used to but quickly becomes clear why it needs some force when running. It’s great that the watch is waterproof although if worn in the shower it keeps thinking the screen is being touched if the watch is locked.
If you are a keen runner and want a watch that will help you improve or keep you updated on performance with some great data the Garmin 630 is the perfect choice. It’s clearly aimed at all types of runners and can handle training programmes and various types of runs (e.g. long runs, intervals, etc.). The basic smart functionality is a nice-to-have, but for me would not be the feature that sells the watch. The battery life for a product like this is also amazing.
So if you are serious about running this watch is ideal. I would not recommend it to someone that only goes on the occasional run, but if you are running 3x or more per week and love data this watch is a real winner.
Review: Andy Puddick