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Home » Garmin Forerunner – The perfect budget GPS watch?

Garmin Forerunner – The perfect budget GPS watch?

A sports watch with GPS, heart rate tracking, and ANT+ support is not more expensive.

No swim tracking

Newer features, such as stress tracking, are not available.

The Garmin Forerunner35 GPS watch is a great choice if you are looking for a GPS watch that you can take on outdoor adventures and runs. Although it’s only two years old, the price has dropped significantly since its launch and is now a great value.

Its feature set is strong enough to compete with more expensive multisport watches like the PS180 Garmin Vivoactive 3 or the PS143 Polar M430. Garmin also has the Forerunner 30, which is a less expensive version. However, the Forerunner35 features are worth the extra PS30.
Garmin Forerunner 35 review: What you should know

The Forerunner 35 has everything you need in a sports watch. The Forerunner 35 can track running, biking and walking via GPS. There’s even an indoor mode. It will track your steps, calories, distance, intensity minutes, and calories burned throughout the day, just like all Garmin fitness wearables. The optical heart-rate monitor tracks your pulse during exercise as well as at rest. You can also wear it over night to log the time you spend in various stages of sleep.

You can also set a virtual pacer and track your steps per minute as you run. This is a feature not available on all GPS-enabled trackers. The Forerunner 35 can be paired with your smartphone to send you notifications and sync all your fitness data to Garmin Connect, where you could spend hours poring over it.

The Forerunner 35 has an advantage over the Forerunner 30, in that it can accept external ANT+ sensors. You can pair it with a chest strap heart rate monitor or Garmin’s Foot Pod for indoor training. The Forerunner 30 relies on its internal sensors and is limited to running. This contrasts with the 35’s many activity modes.

The Forerunner 35’s only notable flaw is that it doesn’t have a swimming mode.
Garmin Forerunner35 review: Competition and price

The Garmin Forerunner35 costs about PS130. Its main competitor is the Garmin PS100 Forerunner 30, which retails for around PS130. This is the basic Forerunner 35 version. It’s great for runners but not for other sports.

Garmin Vivosport, another option, has similar features and is priced at the same price as the Forerunner35 – however the design is more fitness band than watch. At PS143, the Polar M430 is an excellent running watch that has basic functions for swimming and cycling.

Connected GPS is a way for the watch to get its location data from your smartphone. You might also be interested in the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Charge 3 which are stylish options that offer excellent tracking capabilities.

Garmin Forerunner35 review: Design and features

There are many sizes and shapes to choose from when it comes to smartwatches, fitness trackers, and sports watches. Although the Fitbit Flex is rugged and sleek, it could be mistaken for an ordinary friendship bracelet. The elegant Apple Watch 4 is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It also features a large 44mm screen, if you are willing to pay.

The Forerunner 35 falls somewhat within its own market. Although it is a basic looking device, I find it quite appealing. It’s also a nice shape that sits comfortably on the wrist. A 23.5mm thin screen covers the front. It is monochrome but sharp enough to display your incoming messages clearly.

The device does not support touch but this is not a problem. The device has four buttons on the sides that control various functions. These buttons make it easy to navigate through the options reliably while you’re running, walking, writing, or at your desk. The device’s top-left button powers on, controls the backlight, and the button at the bottom can be used to go back. You can scroll through messages and options, while the lower right controls music playback.

This is a quick note: Spotify can only be used on an iPhone. It’s responsive and great for running if you’re using that platform. Spotify is a great investment, but you will have to rely on your headphones for hands-free listening.

The top right button will take you to the essential workout mode. Here you can choose from indoor or outdoor running, walking, and cycling.

The battery is my favorite aspect of the Forerunner35. Although it may reflect poorly on me, I love to be able to trust that my watch won’t quit before I get home. I was able to run for seven days with the Forerunner 35 on one charge. This included two cardio sessions per day and several runs with GPS enabled. The battery indicator didn’t drop a single notch during a decent ten mile run that lasted just over an hour.

The screen is always on, which makes it even more impressive. This makes it ideal for fitness-focused people who don’t have to do exaggerated movements to check the screen. The Forerunner 35 makes it easy to see all the information you need in a glance.

Although there aren’t many smartwatch features, notifications and messages were received promptly once I received them on my smartphone. Only problem is that all graphical characters show up as question marks. This means you can tell when an emoji message has been sent, but not which one.

The watch can also be used to reject or answer calls, but since it doesn’t have a speaker or a microphone, this feature is only useful when you are hands-free.
Garmin Forerunner35 review: Fitness and activity tracking

Although the Garmin Forerunner 35 looks and feels great, activity tracking is where it shines. The Garmin Forerunner 35 offers five workout modes: cardio, indoor running and outdoor running. These are all without GPS to help you track your fitness data. The Forerunner 35 is a great choice for indoor athletes, including weightlifters and cross trainers.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 has many training options, no matter what mode you choose. The Garmin Forerunner 35 allows you to set a virtual pacer that will automatically update you when your speed changes. You will receive a notification telling you whether you are ahead, behind, or on track. This is very useful if your goal is to run faster or improve your running technique.

Interval training was an option on all the exercises. This surprised me. It is easy to set up intervals prior to starting your workout. You also have the option of resting time so that you can create a well-coordinated, HIIT workout from your living room.

Outdoor use is where the Forerunner 35 shines equally. Running through London for work is a common occurrence. Some trackers, such as the Samsung Gear Sport, struggle to locate a signal. In a matter of seconds the Forerunner 35 connected and followed me across London quite accurately. It dropped off once I got underground at Charing Cross station. I can’t fault it for that.

The Forerunner 35 can also give you a useful cadence readingout and learns from your running style so you get more precise results when you are on the treadmill or out of GPS coverage. Although I have not been able to scientifically test it, I noticed that it filled in the gaps with speed and distance data. Garmin appears to be on to something.

The Forerunner 35 was disappointing in one way. It seemed that the virtual pacer was slow to notice that my pace had increased. This was quite disheartening for a long-distance race. Perhaps I was getting tired and thinking I was running faster than I actually was. My 10-mile journey was still accurately tracked by the watch, which also recorded my total time and distance.

For Parkrun enthusiasts, the Forerunner35 tracked my Woodhouse Moor Parkrun run distance of 4.95 km. This is only 50m away, or 1%. That’s not half bad. The result is even better because I ran under a treeline all the way and was surrounded with runners. The watch automatically uploaded my data to Strava after I was done. You can also connect via the Garmin Connect app.

Another great feature is the always-on heart beat tracker. This makes it easy to record your efforts and compare them. The smartphone app allows you to view and compare your heart rate data, as well as the average and live data. The Forerunner 35 can connect via ANT+ to an external heart rate monitor.

For those who are interested in improving their fitness, the VO2-max readingout is a great feature. At the end of each day, the sleep analysis feature separates deep and light sleep. I have compared my nights of poor sleep to those where I slept well and the watch clearly shows the difference.

This information can all be viewed in Garmin Connect for iOS and Android. You can either trigger an automatic upload to get instant analysis or data is transferred automatically from your watch at regular intervals.

The app provides extremely detailed and easy-to-understand data presentations. For example, the speed overlap graph and heart rate graph are both useful and cool. The picture below shows how the Forerunner 35 registered when I started doing sprints at my track class. Both the speed spikes and heart rate were spot on for the 20 200m sprints that we completed. This is especially impressive since I used the cardio feature instead of GPS to do the workout.

The Forerunner35 is not perfect in a few areas. The Forerunner 35 is not waterproof. It also lacks a swim-tracking function. Although you can track your cardio data and retrospectively categorize it as a swimming session using the Connect app, it’d be great to be able look at lengths to see how far you have swum or to check your stroke rate.

The Forerunner 35 lacks some features that we have seen in newer trackers like the Vivosmart 4, such as the Vivosmart’s body battery or stress-level analysis. These features may not be necessary, but they are important if you care about your overall health and well-being.
Garmin Forerunner 35 review: Verdict

As I said, the Forerunner 35 sports watch is less expensive and has more features. It meets all the needs of runners and training athletes, and captures a lot of data. The app makes it easy to view and analyze your workouts.

You can also use ANT+ sensors to increase accuracy. It is possible to view messages and notifications. Its enormous battery life means that it will not let you down during a half-marathon.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 was an appealing proposition back when it launched in 2016 at PS170. It’s almost impossible to resist, with a price tag of just PS50.