This Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review takes a good look at the latest multi-sports watch from Garmin. It sits ‘somewhere in the middle of the range’ in the sense that it’s not a ‘pro’ triathlon watch like the 920XT or Forerunner 935 nor is it a simple device that, sort of, lets you perform each of the triathlon disciplines consecutively like you can with Garmin’s Vivoactive HR.
Price - 92%92%
Apparent Accuracy - 87%87%
Build Quality & Design - 88%88%
Feafures, Including App - 95%95%
Openness & Compatability - 95%95%
Great feature set in a sporty-looking triathlon watch, in 2019 even the price can be good
As we roll through 2019, the format of the Garmin Forerunner 735XT reviewed here can look somewhat dated. It just doesn’t look as fancy as some of the newer, more visually-honed sports watches. It feels light and plasticky and the screen is readable but the colours somewhat dull.
But really, who cares? If you like the aesthetic and/or you just care about getting pretty much all of Garmin’s triathlon-related features then the Forerunner 735XT is a steal if you can find one on Amazon under $200/£300; which NOW you often can.
The battery should definitely always be good for you through to the end of any Half Ironman event with most bells and whistles enabled (it has lots of bells and whistles!) and in 2020 you can be certain that the 735XT has a comprehensive and bug-free, triathlon feature set.
I still use my reliable Forerunner 235 for running which looks identical to the 735XT and is identical for running functionality. I would otherwise have been happy with a 735XT had I not also got a Forerunner 945 which is pretty awesome – although so is its price tag. The 920XT will give you more than the 735XT but not that much more and not for that much more money either. The only downside with the 920XT is its dated, yet sporty, looks.
The 735XT would definitely be bought by a sensible triathlete.
- Features Galore
- Proper triathtlon features
- Sports-watch aesthetic, perhaps not suited to 24×7 usage
- Screen is not great but perfectly usable
In fact: Garmin will say it’s a running watch that can do triathlon but we all know it’s a triathlon watch.
It’s got a lot of features, an inbuilt optical HR sensor and a keen price tag.
Garmin has maxed out those software features as best they could but then skimped a bit on the hardware.
ESSENTIAL READING: 920XT vs 735Xt – Head to Head Dog Fight
ESSENTIAL READING: Best Triathlon Watch
Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review – Positives
In this Garmin Forerunner 735 XT review we found a lot of positives.
- It will have the feature YOU want and LOTS more that you won’t ever need. It’ll support your ANT+ devices including the awesome HRM-TRI and HRM-SWIM straps.
- In my opinion, it looks nice though somewhat dated. It’s small and lightweight, looking sensible on the smaller-wristed amongst us. If you want a watch that looks like a sports watch then this meets the criteria.
- The screen resolution is improved over earlier Garmin tri watches and Garmin have successfully tinkered with the button position and menu layouts to get something approaching what I would call ‘logical’ (very good actually). Yet the screen resolution and colour depth HAS improved on new Garmin tri watches.
- The glittery Christmas baubles of sport are the lactate threshold stuff, STRAVA suffering, auto-updating FTPs, LOTS of screens with fancy dials and charts, activity tracking, 247 optical HR, decent hardware support for Connect IQ apps and it can even tell you how fast you are running TA DA!!. A word of caution in that the 735XT is Garmin’s last current watch running CIQ2 since the release of the Forerunner 245M
- Strava stuff – there’s a STRAVA suffer score. Useful if you have the premium version of Strava. Less so if you don’t, although the Suffer Score will still show on your 735XT (STRAVA Suffer score was renamed to STRAVA Relative Effort)
- It will do the 247 activity, sleep and HR stuff really well and Garmin’s slick app and web ecosystem are good-to-very-good.
- The optical HR is good-to-sometimes-excellent for endurance work. Yet still ‘pretty good’ once the HR gets up to higher levels. That’s fine for most people although it sometimes also throws up wobblies during harder intervals. Whilst cycling the vibrations on the road CAN and DO cause optical HR problems.
- GPS lock and general positional stuff seems fine. Instant pace still requires a supported footpod like STRYD or a Garmin footpod to get a semblence of accuracy. GPS accuracy is alright but you would expect better from Garmin
- As of Jul 2016 the 735XT now supports repeating multisport modes. IE Swim run and multiple brick are FINALLY good-to-go. That’s a GREAT pro-training feature.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review – negatives
In this Garmin Forerunner 735 XT review we found a few negatives that you should be aware of and if these don’t affect you then buy one!
- The quality of construction is OK and, for me, does not justify the price tag for the plastic construction. It made me appreciate how much better the 920XT is in this respect. The 920XT can take a few knocks, I’m not sure the 735XT would survive a notable knock.
- Surprisingly the improved, screen resolution is fine for the sports stuff but STILL it’s NOT quite good enough for a decent resolution watch face. For that reason I, personally, would not wear it 247.
- The battery life is listed as 14 hours but I suspect it is MUCH lower than this with all the bits turned on and there will be an inevitbale deterioration in any battery with the passage of time. I’m down below 70% battery after a sub 2 hour bike ride. And that’s with a new battery/watch. (GLONASS, per second recording, HRV enabled, HRM, PM – no speed/cad, no bluetooth). TIP: Turn off HRV and GLONASS 😉
- The font/digits are slightly smaller than on the 920XT (in 4-per-screen mode). Better use could be made of the on-screen real-estate when displaying the numeric metrics.
- Bluetooth smartphone connections are not supported to older phone models and wifi upload is not supported at all.
- Unlike later, high-end Garmin triathlon watches, you cannot pair to BLE sensors.
- Whilst it has the fun STRAVA suffer score it doesn’t have STRAVA’s segments live on the device and you’ll eventually want/need to upgrade to STRAVA’s subscription service.
- Optical HR accuracy is inadequate *if*, like me, you want a high degree of accuracy 98% of the time. You can still use a HR strap instead (HRM-TRI is fantastic). If you are not that bothered about accurate optical HR then it may well be OK enough for you.
- There is no quick release kit for your bike (yet).
- The altimeter is a lower quality GPS-based type. Cyclists won’t be happy.
- Setting up the device still can take a LONG time. Garmin do not support transferring MOST settings from one device to another. Doesn’t affect most people…really annoys me. Grrrr :-). Let’s hope a factory reset is not required as you will have to re-do almost all it manually.
Now we are into 2019 and the prices do drop below £200/$199 and at those levels this represents GREAT VALUE – compare to the Suunto SPARTAN Trainer also at below £200 and the Polar Vantage M and then it’s tricky to choose between the three. Knowing that a Forerunner 745XT will be released in 2019 might also tempt you to delay although you will then be up to prices over £265/$299 for some time to come
Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review – Summary
At £200/$200, if you can find one at that price, then it’s almost a no-brainer for this great-featured triathlon watch
In the flesh and on my wrist the 735XT has lived up to my first opinions based on the published spec a few months back. Slightly better in some respects but less so in other respects.
But, hey, it’s got all the features you’ll ever need and now, in 2019, they all work. The Forerunner 735XT is not the best triathlon watch money can buy but, for sure, it is a contender in the mid-price range.
This is a mature device. There might be a 745XT replacement in late 2019 and it is VERY likely this will be in the same aesthetic form as the Forerunner 645 Music rather than the form of the 735XT which I would class as a true ‘sports look’.