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.
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
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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 Fenix3 (Sapphire)||£422.00||Link||$599.99||Link|
|Garmin 910 XT||£180.00||Link||$200.00||Link|
|Garmin 920 XT||£320.00||Link||$500.00||Link|
|Suunto Ambit 3 Sport||£203.00||Link||$330.00||Link|
|TomTom MultiSport Cardio||£130.00||Link||$164.77||Link|