Review "Head-to-Head" : Garmin 735XT vs. Garmin 920XT Feature Comparison

Along with the Polar V800 (here vs. 920) and Suunto AMBIT3 Sport, the Garmin 920XT has been a weapon of choice for many triathletes from 2014 through to late 2016. Many more people bought the near identically-featured Garmin Fenix 3 probably, I would contend, for reasons other than pure triathlon competition – such as using it for ‘other’ outdoors sports and for its aesthetics.

ESSENTIAL READING: Review : Garmin Forerunner 920XT – this is a detailed review

ESSENTIAL READING: Review: Garmin Forerunner 735XT – this is a detailed review

I’m going to argue that the 735XT is an interesting beast in your triathlon armoury.

Like the Fenix, it is one that you can wear a lot – maybe it’s not for everyone to wear at work BUT it IS pretty.

Yet for MANY athletes it’s not going to be quite right as a serious triathlon watch.

IMG_4712

Anyway. This is about the 920XT vs 735XT and we need to consider these broad factors: aesthetics; physical form; hardware capabilities; and firmware/inbuilt-software. I will mostly be looking at their differences rather than their similarities but I have to say they are boringly similar in most respects.

Boringly Similar Capabilities

Aesthetics: 920XT vs 735XT

Aesthetics is a personal thing. You might, for example, be interested in aesthetics for wearing your device at work or for the aesthetics for wearing your device in other sporting activities ie when actually training with the darn thing!

I do NOT like the looks of the 920XT. I never have. And yet I have one (well 3, edit 4, as two, edit three, broke). The main reason I don’t like it is the colour. MANY people on the forums say the same thing.

I do like the looks of the 735XT. If it were just about looks I’d probably buy one.

BUT. It isn’t just about looks.

HARDWARE: 920XT vs 735XT

Garmin 735XT Optical ELEVATEThe 735XT has optical HR that uses Garmin’s ELEVATE technology. Essentially this is a lump on the back of the watch with a few lights on it.

Insignificant?

No! Here’s why

  • the optical HR (oHR) bump is probably why no quick release kit exists. WITHOUT A QUICK RELEASE KIT FEW OF THE MORE SERIOUS AGE-GROUP TRIATHLETES WILL USE A 735XT. Other of the more serious reviewers will tell you the same thing.
  • oHR is inaccurate compared to a chest strap, especially at higher levels despite what other, less serious, reviews might say
  • oHR is turned off when swimming – you still need a HRM-TRI/SWIM for swimming in either open water or in a pool
  • oHR can sometimes be more problematic with the bending of wrists when cycling as well as problematic when varying according to certain body/skin types.
  • oHR will not support HRV

On the other hand: if you hate wearing a chest strap or simply don’t want to wear one then the 735XT is great in this respect.

Despite the oHRM bump, the 735XT is actually a tiny, tiny bit thinner. But it’s also 10mm narrower and when that is combined with a reduced usable area because of the circular display that means the 735 is a little more restricted in what it can show. It’s not TOO much worse than the 920XT as the 920XT wastes a lot of screen space (below), yet the font IS slightly smaller.

Moxy Monitor Review - IQ Apps - Garmin 920XT

Both now support CIQ enablement for MO2 and Running Power. Look also at the wasted space/pixels around the digits AND the very edge of the screen.

Sure, a round display works well for the dial-like displays but for the common and simple  case of 4x numbers-on-screen, then it means the numbers are a little smaller. As you can see from the 920XT image above, they are small enough already. Nearly everyone’s eyesight deteriorates from middle-aged onwards (a key Garmin target demographic for this device) and, in my opinion, having to use less than 4 metrics per screen is unacceptable.

Garmin 735XTThe 735XT has a better resolution screen at 215×180 pixels compared to the 205×148 on the 920XT (Source: Garmin). And this lets it display some quite nice, new graphics, although some may say they are gimmicky. Despite the improvement the ‘watch faces’ are STILL not good enough on the 735XT. They are OK and improved over previous versions on the 920XT but still too pixely.

The 735XT has 5 buttons compared to the 6 on the 920XT. I don’t think that really matters once you get used to it.

The 735XT lacks WIFI connectivity. Personally that is no big loss for me as I never generally trusted that firmware update/upload method anyway (check out the forums and see why). Others will find the lack of WIFI an inconvenience.

Unfortunately it gets worse.

The battery life of the 735XT is SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER than the 920XT..

If you are doing an Ironman then absolutely do not buy a 735XT.

Remember: The stated battery life is in ideal conditions when new. Battery life will ALWAYS BE LESS than stated when all the bells and whistles are enabled eg navigation, alerts and Bluetooth will ALL significantly lower battery life.

As an aside, I completed an 11 hour bike ride at the end of May. With only GPS and 1 second recording and a power meter+HRM-RUN connected then my 8 month old (3rd) 920XT pretty much ran out of battery as I got to the end. Bear that in mind for your IM battery strategy. Over time, it WILL be WORSE with a 735XT.

Even worse. Sorry.

The 735XT has a relatively inaccurate GPS-based altimeter compared to the potentially more accurate barometric one of the 920XT. Firmware changes will never sort that out.

Finally the 735XT is a little bit plasticy. The 920XT has a MUCH superior construction.

Firmware: 920XT vs 735XT

They’re basically the same in respect of the FEATURES of the firmware/inbuilt software.

Even the announcement of swim workouts to coincide with the 735XT equally applies to the 920XT ie swim workouts work on both.

The only tiny differences are that the 735XT does a few extra body physiology things, peripheral at best, and it can link to some relatively obscure Garmin accessories that you probably don’t have and never will have i.e. bike lights/radar.

The 735XT does have a different but similar menu structure to the 920XT. It is a UI improvement. 

 

Recommendation

If you’re a vaguely serious triathlete who wants a Garmin – then buy the 920XT. You should be able to get one for around £250 on a good day.

The 735XT is just not as well made as the 920XT.

But then again if you have thin wrists the 735XT will look better and probably feel better.

If you’re doing an Ironman or are keen on the cycling stuff then, of the two, buy the 920XT and even then you’re best to use smart recording (losing HRV). More accurately put: don’t buy a 735XT for either an IM or as your main cycling watch!

If you really, really want a prettier watch or if you want optical HR then you get the 735XT. If you want an optical version of the 630 running watch then get the 735XT.

Hey! If you want to read a 100% positive review that glosses over problems there’s plenty out there. It helps those reviewers get the next loan unit for the next review (I bought the 920XT, the 735Xt was a loan). I’m just giving my opinion, warts and all. If I don’t have the facts correct please let me know.

Garmin Epix £300.00 Link $549.99 Link
Garmin Fenix3 (Sapphire) £422.00 Link $599.99 Link
Garmin 310XT £93.00 Link $140.00 Link
Garmin 910 XT £180.00 Link $200.00 Link
Garmin 920 XT £320.00 Link $500.00 Link
Garmin 735XT £359.99 Link $449.00 Link
Polar V800 £260.00 Link $370.00 Link
Suunto Ambit 3 Sport £203.00 Link $330.00 Link
TomTom MultiSport £100.00 Link $99.99 Link
TomTom MultiSport Cardio £130.00 Link $164.77 Link

Please help support this site in your next purchase by using one of these sites – always links to the normal low-priced deals.
US Latest Deals UK Latest Deals
 

 

 

0 thoughts on “Review "Head-to-Head" : Garmin 735XT vs. Garmin 920XT Feature Comparison

  1. For an Ironman, clearly the 920 is better. But a couple other points of yours are off mark. The actual screen size of the 735xt is actually bigger than the 920 (mm sq), in addition to higher resolution. Just takes getting used to the 3 lines vs 2×2 grid. Even better if you use a customized multi data Connect IQ field. Altitude accuracy is debatable. I’d claim accuracy is better with GPS, consistency is better with BP. My Epix and Edge are often off by more than 100′ after a couple hours due to drift. My 630 is generally within 30′, and it doesn’t get worse with time.

    • ty. with a round screen there is more wasted space. the 920 could admittedly have a bigger font. fair point with the IQ. though I find too many iq widgets and data fields cause problems with many Garmins. I would disagree with you about altitude accuracy and I think many others would too.

      • I’d say accuracy is better with GPS in Garmin implementations. Altitude resolution is obviously better with baro but if it has shoddy calibration that doesn’t help. This is the same issue as with the footpod pace – accuracy is better with GPS but resolution is better with the footpod.
        This is the only way it can be really, because in both cases GPS is the only way to actually measure the values, the other is a sort of dead reckoning based on reasonable assumptions. They are useful for different things though, sometimes responsiveness and resolution is nice and sometimes accuracy is nice. Sadly current technology can’t deliver both.

        I also think it’s a dangerous assumption that everyone will do Ironman. I have no interest at all in that distance, and would heartily welcome a thinner Fenix 3 with 6 hour battery life. I’d actually suggest that Ironman and ultra runners are in the minority and may eventually be too niche to cater for in the mass market. Sadly this kind of dumbing down (like happened with phones) always happens when a gadget gets popular. If 99% of (the new larger market wanting smart watch activity tracking) users don’t need battery but prefer a smaller device, then the 1% don’t get long battery life. Up until now I expect 50% of the smaller market needed long life and the other 50% put up with bigger devices because they had more features.

        Imagine a world where there are two 920XT models. One is the current size with current features, and the other identical but the size of a casio, and a 6 hour life. Now ask yourself how many generations Garmin would continue developing that big chunky watch for?

        • well said dave.
          sure ironman is not for everyone…for example me!! (although I get mentally closer each year)
          I think once we get down to 6 hours then lots of people start to baulk at battery life. and don’t forget other bells and whisltes will lower it further as will the age of battery.

          garmin are in a dominant market position. therefore they get potentially large volumes from many formats so they could make money from a big 920 (men) and a smaller one (women) – simplistic example but you get the drift. no-one else could do that.

          • The problem is that if they sell 2M units of the small and 30K units of the big there will definitely be a bean counter somewhere asking questions. Look at the development effort put into 920XT/Fenix3/Epix to see this, Fenix 3 is clearly the golden child and Epix might need to be taken out back and shot 🙂
            The only way they could make this work is to standardise the hardware internals so that development is identical – this may explain the 735XT since it has Fenix style buttons rather than 920XT which lowers testing costs and development effort.

          • well they just develop a few superwatches and then TURN OFF features for lower models. garmin stated large R&D investment levels recently. lots more to come.

  2. That’s a fair point. However, I’m not sure it’s fair to say “If you are doing an Ironman then absolutely do not buy a 735XT”. there’s plenty of ppl who are sub 11. For me the form factor is important. It’s not about looks. The 910 and 920 feel clunky for everyday swimming and running. I use them. I like them but I welcome something compact. I gave up with HR straps a while ago and have been much happier with optical HR – The Schoshe is far more consistent and easier to use. Still if you want HRV then the 735 has strap option too, so portraying it as a negative here seems strange. Perhaps if you get hold of one to use you might think differently.

    • fair points too. I’d agree with you for everyday usage. I’d also point out that batteries degrade over time. My 920 woudn’t/doesn’t make 11 hours eg last week. The 735 will likely suffer similar degradation. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk. But that is just my opinion. I like the Scosche and it IS accurate (not HRV) but again it has a limited battery life (can you do an Ironman with it’s 6-8 hour battery life?) and it is an extra device to remember to charge up.

Leave a Reply