OPINION: Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Optical HR Triathlon Watch

Garmin sneaked out the 735XT today. It looks good.

The widely predicted 925XT therefore probably won’t happen – bang go my predictions!.

The 735XT is very much in the form of the forerunner running series.  It’s like someone was really keen to put Garmin’s optical HR (ELEVATE) technology onto the 630 and then thought “what the heck” let’s just turn on all the triathlon functionality as well -that was probably already in the firmware in any case!!

ESSENTIAL READING: 920XT vs 735Xt – Head to Head Dog Fight

So what’s new?

  • Strava stuff – there’s a STRAVA suffer score. Useful if you have the premium version of Strava. Less so if you don’t, although it will still show on your 735XT.
  • It’s small and lightweight, a bit plastic perhaps. That’s good for some, especially the small-wristed amongst us, and good for lightness desired by some racers but let’s see if the display area and sunlight performance is sufficient for 4 metrics to be read – I’m sure it will be though.
  • The display is very much of the quality of the recent forerunner series upgrades (235/630). So a nice resolution colour screen. And some of the forerunner/Fenix dials and graphics are there too. Nice.
  • The digits, in 4 per screen mode, are quite small and can be hard to read. A large part of the target market is middle-aged people nearly all of whom start to have deteriorating eyesight.
  • It’s great that it works with the newly (sort of) introduced swim workouts. Actually these are good and useful, allowing various bits of kit to be specified like SNORKEL or paddles. I thought they had effectively pre-announced the Swim 2 with that (hey! wrong again 🙂 )

The format, whilst it will prove popular in the market, seems to gear it more towards the populist-triathlon market. I can’t really see it being used by self-respecting cyclists/age groupers. Though, no doubt, I will be proved wrong on that count as well. Although if you plan to do an Ironman with one then check out the reduced battery life compared to the 920. It lacks a decent barometric altimeter too.

  • So it seems to be more of an aquathlon watch – most probably a very good one but an aquathlon watch nevertheless (with no optical HR for the swim part). I’ll be sure to get one for when I next do an aquathlon. I have one planned for 2019 🙂
  • Actually it’s not even an Otillo-esque Swim-Run watch as Garmin STILL insist on only 5 sports/legs in a triathlon. Grrrr.
  • Garmin have cleverly kept their apparent technical superiority going. They introduce/maintain lots of peripherally-useful features. Such as the recovery/lactate threshold stuff. So when you come to do cross-watch comparisons on a feature-by-feature basis the Garmin comes out on top. Whilst that will no doubt annoy Garmin’s competitors it is a cunning tactic.
  • The optical HR addition is nice and has been called for by many, especially many women who have issues with wearing chest straps. Again the optical HR will prove popular. Many reviewers will note how accurate it is and then the support forums will have quite a few people saying quite the opposite. Optical HR on the wrist is NOT as accurate as a properly-working HR strap from any manufacturer.
  • Audio prompts. Nice. Power audio prompts just added as well – you won’t be wearing earbuds whilst cycling though, right?!
  • Garmin’s activity tracking ecosystem is one of the better ones. Note also that the 735XT has proper notifications from your phone from APPS rather than just ‘oh you’ve got a text/SMS’. I had numerous pairing problems (Jul 2016).
  • It adds in support for some of Garmin’s other accessories like the heads-up display (Varia) and the electronic gear shifters. That’ll be handy.
  • It adds in native SmO2/Thb support and the ability of IQ apps to write to FIT files…err no, just joking. That would be handy 🙂 [should come soon btw…apparently Q1.2016…ahem Jul 2016 is here!]
  • It also adds in running power support…err no just joking again. That would be handy 🙂 [should come soon btw]

Forerunner 735XT: GPS Running Watch with Multisport Features


Does this mean the Forerunner 9XX series is ended? More thoughts (here).

Best Triathlon Watch 2021 – isn’t it obvious ? Garmin, Polar, Apple & more



It’s nice. Quite pretty, plastic yet eminently wearable.

Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices approx £265/$299 and likely to fall in 2019.

Essentially it’s a souped-up Forerunner 235/630 with optical HR and triathlon functionality bundled in but with the optical HR turned off for swimming.

If you wanted an optical Forerunner 630 then DEFINATELY buy this. Although the 635 will soon be released.

Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices approx $400-$450 or £480-£520 and UNlikely for non-Music to fall below $400 in 2019.

My take: A fully featured aquathlon/populist triathlon watch for the masses. Well those that can afford the $450/£360 price tag.

No quick release kit for your bike. You’ve got all the kit including that expensive power meter. How are you going to see the bike stats when riding? $450 and you have to turn your wrists every few minutes?

Sorry I’m not always super-positive. Warts and all. I say it how I see it and no I wouldn’t buy one but it is pretty and YOU are not me.

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12 thoughts on “OPINION: Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Optical HR Triathlon Watch

  1. here are my thoughts i posted on Ray’s Blog.

    Am i the only one that isn’t caught up by the hype here?

    There isn’t anything special or new with this watch that couldn’t get added onto a fenix 3 with firmware.

    It even has worse battery life and smaller screen.

    The screen size i thought would upset people. I’ve used the 630 and it has small text like the fenix 3.

    The 920xt with it’s quad screen actually was a plus over the fenix 3 in terms of readability IMO.

    Anyways it seems like Garmin didn’t do too much aside from using a 630’s body and throw in tri functions with the inaccurate HRM.

    Where are the 3G/LTE band we want?

    Where is voice activated commands so we can just talk to the watch to change pages?

    Where is the longer lasting battery?

    Where are the mature Garmin Connect apps at? start the paid model…

    This is definitely iterative and not innovative as this watch is clearly just a mishmash of products of last year with some ‘new’ (edge had this support already) features.

    1. Mine arrived today I was well excited for it arriving to replace my Fenix but lo and behold I absolutely hate it and it is packaged ready to go back. It feels like like a tiny dress watch but flimsy and not classy, does not feel nice to wear and the screen is not as good as fenix, I bought this hoping for a brighter screen and the optical HR I think I will be going for the Fenix 3 HR. Believe me no self respecting athlete will want this to be their main watch.

      1. it’s cheap plastic like the 235 before it. crappy light, etc. It’s old hardware with new firmware.

    2. The smaller size is a BIG plus for me – in case nobody noticed, half the population is female, and those of us involved in endurance sports tend to have small wrists…the 910/920 and Fenix look ridiculous on me, and I’m seriously considering getting the 735 just because it’s smaller and combines pretty much all the features I like. I have the 910 and Vivosmart right now, the 735 looks like it could replace both.
      As for the disadvantage in battery life…well it’s only a disadvantage if you’re a 14+hr IM athlete. Doesn’t mean you can’t use it for IM, just as long as you are more in the 9-12 hour range. 🙂

  2. Thanks for a great post, T5kR.

    I’m a runner who do a bit of swimming and I’m looking at doing a triathlon later this year. I currently own the FR720, but I hate having to add my swimming session manually using Strava.

    What’s your take – should I buy the FR635xt or wait for the 925/930 update expected later this year?


    1. hi Jens. if you decision is 735 vs 925/930 then 1. the chance of a 925/930 is now MUCH MUCH less than before. 2. even if 925 announced in September it would not be available until nov/dec
      there MAY be a SWIM2 watch v soon. you could keep your 620 and buy that ? or there is going to be a new FINIS swim watch (x2) very soon. you cold get one of those.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I take it the chance for a new FR900 update is reduced because of the 735xt(?). Really looking for a 1-stop-shop type of watch, i.e. buying another one isn’t something I see myself doing, but I appreciate the suggestion tho.

        How’s the battery lifetime on this one btw (compared to the 720 for example).

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