First Look at the New Garmin Forerunner 935

By Alison Freeman

I bought my 920XT when it first came out in November, 2014. Since then, Garmin has introduced *FIVE* multisport watches: the Fenix 3, the Fenix 3 HR, the Forerunner 735XT, the Fenix 5S-5-5X, and the Forerunner 935. I’d held out as long as I could, and I finally couldn’t take it any more and upgraded.

WHY DID I CHOOSE THE 935?

I did a fair amount of research prior to ordering my Forerunner 935, mostly on the Garmin website and on DCRainmaker.com. My priorities were to find the right balance between watch size, price and battery life without giving up features like wifi that I’m accustomed to having. Oh – and to finally be able to ditch the heart rate strap that has given me some awesome permanent scarring (I’ll spare you the photos).

Ultimately, I chose the 935 over the Fenix 5S because, while I preferred the smaller size of the 5S, the battery life and price of the 935 were more important to me.

TWO WEEKS IN, WHAT DO I THINK OF THE 935?

As someone who’s been using one version or another of the square Garmin for years upon years, moving to a round Garmin was a major upgrade. It’s so light, and so thin! Even the watch band seems lighter than the 920’s. Plus, it knows it’s a watch – any time you’re not recording an activity like cycling or running it automatically reverts to a watch face.

Also, the screen resolution is significantly improved from the 920. It’s sleeker, cleaner, and more legible than the 920.

Navigation

Moving from a square to a round Garmin did take some getting used to. All the buttons on the 935 are in different places, and the up/down buttons are on the left instead of right side. When I first turned it on and started playing I kept pressing buttons and had NO IDEA what was going on. After a few minutes I started to figure it out, but it took a few days before I was fully used to navigating the new setup.

Because the 935’s navigation is more complex than the 920’s, I’ve made a point of setting up my most frequent activities as favorites as well as customizing the controls menu and hot keys so that the features I use most are quickly accessible.

Features

All of the features that I had used regularly on the 920 are still there on the 935: the full range of individual and multisport activity profiles plus several new ones, plus smart notifications, alerts, and interval training. In addition, there is a huge range of new features that I’m just starting to explore:

  • The pre-loaded Training Peaks app, which allows me to pull up and complete today’s TrainingPeaks structured workout.
  • Smart functions like displaying today’s weather and my appointment calendar (both require connection to your phone’s GarminConnect app).
  • Basic yet logical watch functions, like a timer and stopwatch.
  • A vastly expanded set of performance measurements, powered by Firstbeat.

Optical Heart Rate

By far one of my favorite upgrades is the optical heart rate feature. The 935 has a sensor on the back of the watch that continuously measures your heart rate, about once every second. Do you need to know your heart rate throughout the day? Not necessarily, but knowing and monitoring your resting heart rate can give you some insights into your recovery status, so it’s not totally useless.

Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve found that the readings from the optical heart rate monitor have generally been accurate and consistent enough that I trust the feedback I’m getting during my workouts. And you don’t have to get the heart rate data just on your watch. The optical heart rate data can be broadcast, just like a strap, so you can pick it up during a TrainerRoad or Zwift workout, on your bike computer, or on your 920.

The only downside to optical heart rate is that it the watch has to be against your skin in order to know your heart rate (duh). So if you use the optional quick release kit, you won’t get heart rate readings when the watch is on your bike (which is why I’m now using my 920 as my bike computer). Also, the 935 has to simultaneously see the sky to get a GPS signal, which can create a dilemma on cold days – so I (sadly) didn’t trash the heart rate strap from my 920. Good news is that the 935’s GPS seems to be pretty darn accurate grabbing GPS through a single layer of clothing.

Battery Life

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to battery life. I don’t think the 920 really had 24 hours of battery in GPS mode – I’m guessing it was closer to 15-16 hours, tops. So far the 935 has been promising. I fully charged the battery, and then used the 935 for a long brick (5:45 bike + 0:50 run). The battery was at 65% when I was finished. Extrapolating that information, I’m estimating the battery has about 18 to 19 hours of activity use, and even more if you set the watch up to maximize battery life. The watch should work well for any Ironman-distance athlete, and could even possibly survive a 100-mile ultra run.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

The 935 is not easy to track down. Most retailers don’t have them in stock for a same-day purchase or, more importantly, to take a peek before you pull the trigger. And as of the writing of this review, most on-line retailers are out of stock. Your best bet may be to ask your local multisport or cycling shop to special order the watch for you,