The Short Version
The Garmin Forerunner 35 might not be the prettiest tracker on the market, but it is packed full of features, including a built-in GPS and optical heart rate monitoring. It’s an especially good option for runners, with several different outdoor run modes including custom intervals and a virtual pacer. At the RRP of £169.99 the Forerunner 35 is outgunned by other options, but it’s widely available for under £140, and at that price it’s the best GPS running watch available.
Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)
£169.99, buy on garmin.com | Check price on amazon.co.uk
Things We Like
- The Forerunner 35 makes it very easy to track both everyday activity and sports, partly because it doesn’t go overboard on features.
- Runners are well catered for, with several different outdoor modes including customisable interval and run/walk workouts, and a virtual pacer.
- All-day tracking is comprehensive – steps, calories and heart rate are all monitored 24/7 – and you get an estimate of your overall fitness with resting heart rate and VO2 max measurements.
- Battery life is an impressive 13 hours for GPS and nine days in watch mode, which means light users will get through a week on one charge and even the keenest runners will only need to plug it in twice a week.
Things We Didn’t Like
- The Forerunner 35’s everyday tracking is good, but you’re unlikely to want to wear it all the time thanks to its blocky design – it’s clearly a sports watch.
- It would take quite a while to lock on to GPS at the start of each run – probably 30-60 seconds longer than other trackers.
- There isn’t a huge range of sports modes to pick between – there’s no strength training option for example – although you can tag activities later in the Garmin Connect app.
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Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 For Running
The Forerunner 35 does have sports mode for cycling and cardio workouts, but running is its bread and butter, and it offers an impressively complete package considering it’s a budget GPS watch. There are indoor and outdoor run modes to pick between, each of which can be customised to show the stats you want, although only up to six across two screens. Although the screen isn’t huge, it’s always on and I had no difficulty reading my stats while running.
A major strength of the Forerunner 35 for runners is the variety of modes it offers for outdoor runs. You can set up an intervals workout to follow on the watch itself, including a warm-up and warm-down, and customisable work/rest periods based on time or distance. There’s also a run/walk mode, which is an invaluable option for beginners. For more advanced users the Forerunner 35 offers a virtual pacer, so you can set a target pace for your run and see how close you are keeping to it at a glance. All three modes are simple to set up on the watch, which I find important. If I have to use an app or the set-up gets even slightly complicated, I for one am far less likely to use these modes.
One gripe I do have with the Forerunner 35 is that it seemed to take longer than other trackers to find a GPS fix at the start of a run – 30-60 seconds longer on average. It wasn’t a huge issue – the Forerunner 35 would still generally lock on to GPS within 90 seconds to two minutes of firing it up, but every minute standing around outside counts, especially in the winter. You also can’t just start a run and rely on an accelerometer to estimate the distance covered while the Forerunner 35 continues to hunt for GPS – you have to wait for full signal before it allows you to hit go.
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After your run the info is synced quickly to the Garmin Connect app, which lists key stats like time, distance and average pace, and also provides graphs of your heart rate, pace and cadence throughout the run.
If you’re a runner looking for a cheap GPS watch and you find the Forerunner 35 available for around £135 rather than its RRP of £169.99, I have no hesitation in saying it’s the best tracker you can get at that price.
Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 For Cycling
The cycling mode on the Forerunner 35 is the same as with running, except the option for an indoor cycle is hidden in the options menu for outdoor riding, which is a bit odd because with running it’s an entirely separate sports mode. Anyway, it’s good to have it. You get two screens of data with three stats on each, and you can also set up an intervals workout to follow on the watch while you ride, which is especially useful for indoor sessions.
The screen on the Forerunner 35 is a mite small to get a good look at while cycling outdoors, especially on urban commutes when staring at your wrist for longer than half a second is inadvisable, although on more open roads you can take in all the details you need. As with running, all the info on your ride including a map is shown in the Garmin Connect app afterwards.
Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 As An Activity Tracker
Garmin includes comprehensive daily tracking on all of its wearables, and the Forerunner 35 will record pretty much any aspect of your activity you’d wish to know about. There’s steps, calories (both active and resting), active minutes across the week and 24/7 heart rate tracking. You even get a graph of your heart rate over the past four hours on the watch itself.
You can adjust your activity goals and you get alerts when you complete them each day. For those who fear that their job has made them sedentary beasts, you can also turn on move alerts that will buzz at you if you’ve been still for too long. Clearing the move bar requires you to get up and wander around for a few minutes – you can’t fool the Forerunner 35 with a shake of your wrist.
The Forerunner 35 is a pretty solid activity tracker with one key flaw – you’re probably not going to want to wear it all the time. It’s not uncomfortable, but the plasticky, square design looks a bit out of place if you’re not undertaking a sporting endeavour of some kind.
Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 As A Heart Rate Monitor
The Forerunner 35 tracks your heart rate continuously throughout the day and night, and uses that info to provide an estimate of your resting heart rate, which is a good measure of your overall fitness. If your resting heart rate comes down over time, it’s a reliable indication that you are getting fitter.
During activity the Forerunner 35 will provide your current heart rate and the heart rate zone you are in, the latter being a useful way to gauge the intensity of your exercise. After a few outdoor runs you will get a measure of your VO2 max on the watch based on your heart rate and pace during exercise. Once again, this is a solid measure of your fitness – the higher your VO2 max, the fitter you are.
I found the Forerunner 35’s heart rate tracking to be impressively accurate during runs when compared with a chest strap device, and it’s certainly usable as a training aid. If you’re tackling an interval session with the aim of spiking your heart rate during work periods you might find that the Forerunner 35’s readings lag a little, but you’ll get a useful graph of your heart rate during the workout afterwards in the Garmin Connect app.
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Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 As A Sleep Tracker
The Forerunner 35 tracks sleep automatically and in the morning you can check the app for info on your night’s rest, including how much you moved around while sleeping and how much time you spent in deep and light sleep. And it’s comfortable enough to wear at night without noticing it’s there.
However, I had the same problem with the Forerunner 35 as I’ve had with all Garmin trackers, which is that as soon as you’re vaguely inactive in the evening, the devices assume you’re sleeping. So sitting in bed reading or watching TV is counted as a period of sleep, which skews the overall tally of your hours spent sleeping enough to be pretty useless. If you keep in mind the rough time you did fall asleep and wake up you can get some interesting info on your movement during the night, but if sleep tracking is a key feature for you, Fitbit trackers do it far better.
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Using The Garmin Forerunner 35 As A Smartwatch
Once you link it with your smartphone the Forerunner 35 will show basic notifications, but you’ll have to get your phone out to do anything about those notifications. It’s the standard offering from pretty much all basic fitness trackers nowadays.
The Garmin Connect App
Having been a bit of a mess just a year or so ago, Garmin Connect is now my favourite of all the apps linked to fitness trackers. That’s because it does a masterful job of separating info into two categories: things you want to know straight away, and things you might want to dig into when you have the inclination.
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The former is all shown on a colourful home page which uses cards to detail each and every aspect of your day – activities, steps, calories burned and so on. It’s all there, and it all looks nice. Then, if you so desire, you click on any of those cards and get more in-depth detail on it, whether that’s the one-mile split times from your last run or a graph of your resting heart rate for the past month.
How Often Am I Going To Have To Charge It?
With 13 hours of juice when using GPS, the Forerunner 35 outguns all of its rivals when it comes to battery life. The Forerunner 30 has only eight hours of GPS and the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio has nine. In watch mode, the Forerunner 35 lasts nine days. I found that I needed to charge it twice a week when using it for all my runs as well as cycling to work, but if you only used it for three runs a week it would last seven days before needing to be plugged in.
Where Can I Wear It Without People Laughing At Me?
When doing sports. Look at it. The Forerunner 35 is clearly a sports watch and it’s fair to say that most people won’t be keen on wearing it to the office or glamorous evening events. If style is a must for you, then Fitbit or Misfit trackers might be more suitable, though they won’t match the sports tracking capabilities of the Forerunner 35.
Should I Consider Buying Something Else?
This very much depends on the price you find the Forerunner 35 available for. If you have to stump up the £169.99 RRP, then the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio pretty much matches the features of the Forerunner 35 for £30 less. However, if you find the Forerunner 35 available for a similar price as the Spark 3 Cardio, which you usually can on Amazon, then I’d say it’s a better option because of how easy it is to use and the Garmin Connect app.
The other option for bargain hunters to consider is the Huawei Band Pro 2, which costs just £79.99 (£59.99 on Amazon currently) and somehow isn’t terrible. It’s very good, in fact. It doesn’t have as good a screen, which makes it tricky to see your stats during activity, but the Band Pro 2 does an awful lot of stuff for its relatively low price.
There are a couple of other options from Garmin to consider as well. If you want a more full-featured running watch, the Forerunner 235 is a great pick and can usually be found for £180-£200. Then there’s the recently released Forerunner 30, which strips out a few features from the Forerunner 35. The Forerunner 30 has a built-in GPS and heart rate tracking, but it’s a device I’d only recommend for runners, because it doesn’t have dedicated modes for any other sport. Even for runners it lacks a little in features compared with the Forerunner 35, but if you spot it for £100 or less then it’s another good bargain option for beginner runners.