Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Review Price: £360.00
Five-day battery life
Built-in heart rate monitor
iOS and Android app support
5 ATM waterproof rating
What is the Garmin Forerunner 735XT?
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is a hardcore fitness tracker designed for triathletes and those who become excited by the prospect of a Tough Mudder challenge.
It can be bought as a standalone unit (£360) or as a Tri Bundle (£450), which includes Garmin’s advanced HRM Tri and HRM Swim chest straps.
The Tri Bundle turns the Forerunner into one of the most powerful and comprehensive fitness-tracking packages available, but even on its own, the watch is powerful enough to offer great performance monitoring and coaching.
However, the watch’s high price alongside complexities with its advanced functions make it overkill for anyone but the most hardcore of fitness fanatics.
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Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Design and Setup
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT has a no-frills design that puts function over fashion. The watch has chunky physical buttons protruding from its sides and a rather garish rubber strap. This combination puts it as far from a fashionable wearable, such as the Withings Activité, as is possible It’s available in two colour options, either Midnight Blue/Frost Blue or Black/Grey finishes. At 11.7 mm thick, the Forerunner isn’t the slimmest tracker out there.
Luckily, Garmin has taken advantage of the generous space by cramming the Forerunner 735XT with plenty of useful tech. Inside its chunky main unit you’ll find GPS, an optical heart rate monitor and a 1-inch colour screen.
Those who haven’t known a world without iPhones will be surprised to discover that the screen isn’t touch-enabled. Instead, the watch is controlled via physical buttons, which is in keeping with Garmin’s design rationale of making the unit as tough as possible.
The Forerunner 735XT is one of the most rugged trackers I’ve tested. The watch has a 5 ATM rating, which means it can survive depths of up to 50m. It even survived an accidental collision with one of my dumbbells during a free-weights session.
My only minor quibble with the Forerunner 735XT’s functionality is its use of a proprietary charger. I’m not a fan of any device that opts for a proprietary charging cable, since it’s too easy to misplace them or forget to pack them when travelling. Being fair to Garmin, nearly all the trackers I’ve reviewed have custom chargers. Nevertheless, it’s frustrating that the industry hasn’t yet migrated to a standard, such as USB Type-C.
The Forerunner 735XT’s stellar battery life helped to alleviate my annoyance at having to use a proprietary cable. Following a solid three weeks of wear, I found that the Garmin Forerunner 735XT lasted 5-7 days with moderate use. This involved wearing it 24/7, constantly tracking my sleep and steps, plus a 5k run in a park, or 7k session on an exercise bike each morning.
The setup process is easy. Simply download Garmin’s Connect app (available on iOS and Android) and follow a series of on-screen prompts to connect the watch, via Bluetooth, to your phone.
Related: Best Smartwatch 2016
Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Tracking and Software
In the past, Forerunner watches have offered superbly accurate exercise and sleep-tracking services. This trend continues with the 735XT, which is one of the most powerful trackers I’ve tested – to the point that it’s complete overkill for anyone but the most committed of athletes.
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On my first run with the Forerunner, I was amazed at how reactive the GPS is. Throughout testing, the GPS consistently managed to find its signal more than a minute faster than the Microsoft Band 2and Basis Peak.
The Forerunner also proved incredibly reliable at distance tracking. On a track I know is roughly 5.2km the results between the Basis Peak and Forerunner were consistent, and at most only 10-20m out of sync. The Band 2 threw up a few anomalies and on occasion was 0.4km out of sync with the other two trackers.
The same proved true with cycling, where I found the built-in heart rate monitor to be one of the best I’ve used. The Garmin watch presented realistic figures time and again, never once indicating that I was in cardiac arrest, or had the heartbeat of a hummingbird – which I experience occasionally on both the Basis and Band 2.
The Forerunner’s multi-sport functionality is also seriously impressive. The Forerunner can be used to track running, swimming and cycling individually. It also has a custom triathlon setting that lets you smoothly transition between the three using a button on the watch’s right-hand side, which means you can concentrate on your time and not the watch. The process works a treat and made it easy for me to track multi-sport exercises without interrupting my flow.
The watch offers access to Garmin’s bespoke app store, too, from where you can add new functionality to the tracker and create bespoke multi-sport workout regimes – handy for people taking part in non-traditional activities, such as Tough Mudder challenges.
Also available is a solid notifications service, which can be set to push alerts for incoming messages from all the services you’d expect, including Gmail, Twitter and Facebook. When paired with your smartphone, the Forerunner 735XT can display weather information and upcoming calendar appointments, too.
Notifications, distance and heart rate tracking is only a fraction of what the Forerunner is capable of. The Forerunner 735XT offers in-depth real-time data and post-exercise performance analytics, which can help you plan and optimise your workout regime.
Unlike cheaper trackers, the Forerunner offers a variety of real-time data throughout your workout. These include your current lap times, duration and heart rate, plus a useful “Training Effect” score. Training Effect is a score out of five that gauges how much you’re getting out of your workout. It’s a popular statistic with serious athletes, who commonly use it to gauge how much each training session will improve their strength and overall fitness.
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