The range of sports watches at Garmin continues to grow, and after the Garmin FR25, FR235 or Vivoactive HR models presented this year on Sportivity, it’s the turn of the all-new Garmin Forerunner 35 from the pass in our hands.
This Garmin FR35 stands out from its sister the Forerunner 25 by integrating an optical heart rate sensor, like the models positioned a little higher in the range of the manufacturer.
Do not believe that its price and name make it an entry-level watch because it’s far from being the case. Designed for beginners and more experienced athletes, the Garmin Forerunner 35 has rich and comprehensive features including heart rate monitoring, intelligent notifications, daily activity monitoring and excellent battery life.
Yes, some more pointed indicators are here absent ( VO2Max for example ), but as we will see in the rest of our article, the FR35 should largely be sufficient for the vast majority of its users. Full return after a good fortnight at his side.
Nothing special to note about the packaging of this brand new Garmin Forerunner 35. The watch is offered in a rather classic cardboard box, with a large clear plastic skylight on its front. We discover some pictograms quickly presenting some strengths of the model: integrated GPS, heart rate monitor, connected features and vibration alerts.
The left side of the box then lets us discover some examples of screens of the FR35, and a first difference appears in front of the models higher up in the range: the screen is here monochrome. On the right side, the packaging reminds us that the watch is apparently compatible with the Garmin Connect app.
Inside finally, there is the watch accompanied by a complete user manual and a proprietary USB cable to recharge its internal battery.
Design & Ergonomics
- Before dwelling on the features offered by the Garmin Forerunner 35, take a look at its look and ergonomics. As you probably noticed, Garmin opted here for a relatively simple design, and we must admit it a little less work than some models already presented on our platform. Exit the circular design of the Forerunner 235 or FR630 models, and place a square dial, not unlike the format used by the Apple Watch.
- With its plastic construction and colorful bracelets, the FR35, however, keeps a sporty look that should convince joggers. At the center of the dial, there is a monochromatic screen offering excellent readability in practice. Admittedly, the aesthetics of the display is not as successful as that of a Garmin Vivoactive HR, but for the desired use we will see that this is large enough.
- Around the screen, we find a frame a little too generous to our taste. Subtle pictograms are then accompanied by four buttons to navigate the menus of the Garmin Forerunner 35. On the left side, there is first the first button to activate the backlight of the screen, but also to put off or on the watch through prolonged pressure. The second button allows for its part to open the menu of the FR35, but also to return to the previous page when browsing the different pages.
- On the right side, the upper button also opts for dual functionality, since it can be used to open the menu of sports exercises, but also to validate an action. Finally, the lower button scrolls through the different options displayed on each dial. Note that the FR35 does not have an “up” button, and it is, therefore, necessary to make a loop among the various choices. In practice, it must be admitted that this makes the use rather unintuitive to the first approaches and so we must take care not to “miss” the option sought under penalty of having to repeat a complete turn in the listing of the page in question.
- At the back of the watch, we find the optical heart rate sensor to monitor his rhythm permanently, both in everyday life as during your sports training. Besides the sensor, we also note the presence of a 4-point connector where we will connect the charging cable.
- Now place the bracelet of this Garmin Forerunner 35, which radically changes the previous models of the brand. Much more flexible, it has on its internal part a soft-touch coating particularly pleasant to the touch, and on its external part of a striated coating rather well realized. Offered in several colors, it is possible to change the latter, but it will necessarily use a screwdriver to remove it.
- On the side of the clasp, nothing new with a classic system that has proven itself in the past. The bracelets are offered in a single size but should in practice be able to fit the vast majority of wrists (for Sir and Madam).
- Note finally that like the recent TomTom Spark 3, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is also water resistant up to 50 meters. It will be possible to keep the latter during your trips in the pool, although the interest will be limited since the watch does not offer features for this type of activity.
The menus of the Garmin Forerunner 35
By pressing the “Menu” button, various options are presented on the screen:
- History: Listing of your last training and your records.
- Alarm: Set up alarm, with the possibility of automatic repetition.
- Do not disturb: Allows you to pause the various notifications and vibrations of the watch.
- Detect my phone: Vibrate your phone to find it (only if Bluetooth is enabled).
- Synchronize: Synchronize FR35 data to your Garmin Connect account via Bluetooth. Note however that in practice, the application automatically synchronizes data when it is opened from your smartphone.
Finally, a “Settings” tab gives access to more advanced options:
- Bluetooth: Used to manage the configuration of the paired device, but also to activate or not the smart notifications (SMS, reception of calls …).
- Watch Dial: Allows you to choose between an analog or digital dial on the Forerunner 35’s main display.
- Activity Tracking: Allows you to enable or disable tracking, but also inactivity alerts.
- Sensor: Used to connect additional sensors (e.g., cardio belt).
- User Profile: Settings for user information of the FR35.
- System: Set language, time, units or backlight.
Follow your activity with the Garmin Forerunner 35
- This is not a surprise, and like the vast majority of sports watches the new Garmin Forerunner 35 can track his daily activity but also his sleep.
- No great innovation on this side, since the watch is obviously able to calculate the number of steps achieved, the distance traveled or the calories spent in your day. As with other branded products, note that the watch can automatically adjust your daily step goal based on your previous results.
- This data can be directly displayed on the screen of the Forerunner 35 by pressing the lower right button. There is also a bar of inactivity, filling automatically when too few movements are detected (staying too long behind the screen for example). Once the gauge is complete, the watch offers you to take a hundred steps to stretch your legs.
- With the addition of the heart rate monitor, it is also possible to consult at any time its current heart rate but also its resting heart rate. Finally, a dial allows consulting the number of minutes called “active” made during the current week.
- The watch is also able to bring some information about your sleep. We can then consult the total duration of his sleep, but also the time spent in deep or light sleep. Thanks to the accelerometer present in the FR35, one can also consult a graph listing the evolution of its movements during the night.
- As usual, all this data can then be viewed via the Garmin Connect application ( or directly via the web platform of the same name ). Available for free on iOS and Android, Garmin Connect offers a global and intuitive view of its results and above all allows to obtain interesting graphics over several weeks or months.
Training with the Garmin Forerunner 35
The little Garmin FR35 can accompany you on several sports activities, including running (indoor or outdoor), walking or cycling. Obviously, and as the name suggests, it is in the running that it reveals its full potential.
By choosing the “Outdoor race” mode (via the top right button), a screen suggests waiting while the sensors are searching for the different signals (heart rate and GPS position). If the search is not as fast as the GLONASS compatible models, the watch is usually ready in less than a minute. Note however that depending on your environment (large buildings in particular), the reception of the signal may sometimes require a few minutes.
From this same screen, it is also possible to access many settings concerning his training:
- Race Mode: Allows you to adjust the desired stroke type. We can choose between a free run, alternate run/walk, Virtual Pacer mode or set up a training interval.
- Alarms: Set alarms according to the indicators of your choice. It will be possible, for example, to be alerted by vibration after a certain distance traveled or when one leaves a certain zone of heart rate.
- Data Fields: Allows you to choose the indicators displayed on the two pages of data accessible during training. We find the usual indicators, namely distance, pace, time or heart rate. For each indicator, it is possible to choose the value in real time, the value for the current circuit or an average value.
- Circuits: Allows to choose between automatic circuits of 1 km, or a manual installation (practice when one makes several turns of the same park for example).
As can be seen, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is relatively complete, and even if it does not venture on more advanced indicators such as the stride or the vertical oscillation, it should allow the majority of athletes to put in place and effectively monitor their training. Once your race options are correctly configured, and the signals are properly established, the action is on the way. During the training, the two previously selected data screens are scrolled, and a third one is showing the clock and the remaining autonomy. During the effort, the readability is more than correct, and it is possible to easily consult his data even when the sun is in the game (or rather the rain in the example below).
By pressing the “Running” button again, the recording pauses, and you can resume the recording or finish it and save the session. We then obtain a summary of its output, and the information can subsequently be viewed on the watch via the history. Obviously, to get complete and pictorial details, we will turn to the Garmin Connect app again. We will then find all the information related to its output, accompanied by a map of its course and numerous charts retracing the evolution of its key indicators over the effort (pace, heart rate …). On the performance side, the accuracy of the GPS sensor is correct but not always perfect. In town, we note some small stalls by zooming a little more on our course even if on the whole difficult to blame much to the Garmin Forerunner 35 on that side. The good news about this GPS sensor, the recording is now performed every second, allowing to hang up very quickly when the signal decreases (where some less great watches are limited to a measurement every 8 seconds for example).
On the side of the heart sensor, nothing new. Like the competition but also the previous models at Garmin, the heart rate monitor is doing very well from the moment we keep a relatively constant pace. On the recordings a little more pointed, and especially the fractional training, the optical sensor is difficult to follow the rapid variations of the frequency. The average results are often quite close to those obtained via a heart rate monitor belt, but if we then look at the curves and minima/maxima, we will notice some relatively essential differences. This is a problem still inherent in optical sensors but tends to improve over products.
Finally, keep in mind that optical sensors may be subject to certain variations depending on temperature (especially winter), sweat, hair and of course light. However, difficult to deny their practicality and intuitiveness in the face of the usual belts.
Smart Notifications of the Garmin FR35
Most sports watches now tend to incorporate some smart features, allowing them to some extent to tickle the real Smartwatches. Some products like the Moto 360 Sport or the Polar M600 go a step further by integrating Android Wear into their ecosystem.
The Garmin Forerunner 35 is no exception to this rule and therefore offers some additional features to improve its daily use. For example, you can be notified of the receipt of an SMS and directly come to consult it from the screen of the watch. The notifications are not limited to messages, however, and it will be possible to consult many others from, for example, your different social networks.
The FR35 will also vibrate when receiving a phone call and you can even pick up or hang up directly from the dial. Among the other “Smart” features, note the presence of the weather but also the management of its musical tracks.
If unlike some products from TomTom, it is not possible to directly store your music on the Forerunner 35, you can still go from one track to another from the watch without needing to go through the remote control from his headphones or the screen of his smartphone. A good point for all those who like to run in music!
Finish our presentation of this FR35 with its performance regarding autonomy. For this new model, Garmin announces up to 9 days of battery life in conventional use (without GPS), and up to 13 hours in running mode. More than adequate performance, which allows training the training without worrying about the level of its battery permanently.
Charging is then done via a USB cable on which we find a kind of clamp to connect to the 4-pin port present at the back of the watch.
The Garmin Forerunner 35 against the competition
Before concluding with this presentation of the Garmin FR35, a brief overview of its benefits and its value for money against its main current competitors.
- Garmin Forerunner 35 VS Garmin Forerunner 235: Until then the most affordable GPS cardio watch in the range, the FR235 has featured a little more advanced than the FR35. In particular, it can calculate your VO2Max and also has a color screen for better readability. The navigation within the menus is also a little more intuitive. In the idea, it will be recommended especially for athletes a little more experienced.
- Garmin Forerunner 35 VS Polar M200: The Polar M200 is now one of the cheapest GPS cardio watches on the market. Its lighting and legibility are not up to the FR35, but it is a great alternative if you have a budget a little tighter with its price.
- Garmin Forerunner 35 VS Garmin Forerunner 25: Tthe FR25 is an interesting GPS watch for sports fans but does not have a built-in heart rate monitor. For the rest, the features remain quite close to those of the FR35. If you already have a cardio belt, it will be just as interesting for you.
- Garmin Forerunner 35 VS TomTom Spark 3: Integrating a GPS, a heart rate monitor and an onboard memory to store his music, the Spark 3 is probably the best alternative to the FR35 if you have a budget slightly higher. Thanks to it, it becomes possible to train in music without having to keep your smartphone on either, a real advantage regarding comfort for some users. His performances are also compelling.
If the Garmin Forerunner 35 is not exceptional in itself, it is still one of the most interesting watches on the market for beginners and a little more experienced. The addition of the integrated heart rate monitor is a real plus in the face of the small FR25, and if the price is necessarily increased, difficult to deny the benefits, it brings regarding comfort and intuitiveness. Offering reliable performance and many settings options for training, it should be able to shade the excellent Garmin FR235 and allow many athletes to try a new way to train without paying more.
If we had to make a single complaint, it would probably be his look not necessarily more work. But what do you want, at this price, we can not have everything!
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