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
The Garmin Forerunner 235 is designed with a purpose, to bring out the best runner in you.
The watch itself looks more mainstream than most fitness watches, although 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 watch's five buttons are streamlined to the watch face but easy to select when needed. Despite its fairly 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 does not look 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
Starting a training session is easy: you simply select the start button and can then opt for which type of training you will be doing, from running outdoors or running indoors to cycling. The watch finds your heart rate almost immediately without the need to set up so this is a great feature. 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.
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.
When running, users can opt for training intervals or finish time. Training interval workouts are based on distance or time. Wearers 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.
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 with lots of features to play with. You can check your personal best times, check your health stats, and see how many steps you've done. You can choose which widgets you want displayed on the page and it is fully customisable.
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.
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. 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.
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.
The Mio Alpha 2 is designed to give you all the benefits of heart rate training at your wrist without having to connect to an external heart rate monitor. 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 and is equipped with the watch itself, your quickstart guide and foldable USB charger. You need to charge the battery before you can use your new watch, but this is very easy to do. The battery can last up to 24 hours in training mode or up to three months of life in regular mode.
Mio Alpha 2 Boxed
The Alpha 2 look is quite clearly a sports watch, with its digital face and silicone strap. Its chunky design can be a bit unsightly on your wrist, but the strap features breathing holes which double up as fasteners so you can adjust it as much as you want. The large LED screen is clear and easy to read at a glance during activity.
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 I found them hard to find at first. I also had difficulty with the screen and button 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 taps when I tried.
Once your watch is activated, the user 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 watch's sensitivity, the integration of the buttons actually became one of the watch's strengths as there was no opportunity for me to accidentally start workouts or hit buttons while in the middle of training, which I have experienced with other trackers.
Strapless Heart Rate Monitoring
To enter into heart rate mode with the Alpha 2, Mio recommends you wear the watch slightly higher up your wrist than you usually would for regular wear. 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 up 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 when you get started.
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. 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. 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 goes above or below the desired zone, the watch gives a vibration alert, so the user can move back on target.
Mio 2 Heart Rate Zones
Lap Timer, Pace, and Distance
Despite its lack of a GPS tracker, the Mio Alpha 2 does have a distance tracking feature.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
With 24 hours' worth of workout data stored on the watch itself and your week's 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 watch's feedback is simple and precise. Though the watch may not do as much as what other fitness watches, that's what makes it perfect as a beginner's training watch.
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is a fantastic running watch with smart functionality and without the distraction of other sports.
Enhanced Running Metrics
The Garmin 630 is aimed primarily 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 external heart rate monitor (HRM). Personally, I wouldn’t want to use the watch for running without it. The watch is too good not to make the most of its features and data like vertical oscillation, balance, and ground contact time only come to life when the HRM is used.
Activity and Lifestyle Tracking
The activity tracking feature is an additional bonus. I’ve also added lifestyle to incorporate sleep and inactivity too. When one works in an office and sits at a desk all day it can be far too easy to remain seated and still for hours sometimes. An hourly reminder to move from your watch can have a really positive effect.
The sleep tracking is also a nice touch, especially if you aren’t getting much sleep and want to know just how little you’ve had!
Why Choose Garmin Forerunner 630?
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 into 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 smartwatch 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!
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 a 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 by Andy Puddick