Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review Optical HR Triathlon Watch

Garmin Forerunner 920XT Review vs Garmin Forerunner 735XT Review Comparison

920XT vs. 735XT

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is 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 nor is it a simple device that, sort of, lets you perform each of the triathlon disciplines consecutively like you can with the Vivoactive HR.

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 have maxxed 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

Best Triathlon Watch 2018 | Top 10 | – Tri Review & Recommendations

 

Positives

It has got 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. It’s small and lightweight, looking sensible on the smaller-wristed amongst us.
  • 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).
  • 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!!.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • GPS lock and general positional stuff seems fine. Instant pace still requires a supported footpod like STRYD or a Garmin one.
  • TA DA: the latest beta firmware (30/Jul/16) supports repeating multisport modes. IE Swim run and multiple brick are FINALLY good-to-go. That’s a GREAT pro-training feature.

Garmin 735XT Optical ELEVATEIt has more negatives than you might, at first glance, expect.

    • 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 super-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. Although Garmin are now VERY close to pleasing me in this respect. The 930XT/Fenix 4 should do that!
    • The battery life is listed as14 hours but I suspect it is MUCH lower than this with all the bits turned on. 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 connections are not supported to older phone models and wifi upload is not supported at all.
    • I found pairing to my 2015 model smartphone tortuous and I gave in. It paired 4th time but……’not properly’. So I don’t get all those fancy notifications that I should be able to, for example. Even when connected with Bluetooth, the connection get getting dropped. Could it  be the phone? UPDATE: April 2018 – connectivity to Bluetooth phones is generally improved and Garmin are better than many competing vendors in this regard. iOS will generally be better.
    • 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)
    • 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 of it manually.

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Even in 2018 the price is still in the high £200’s – compare to the Suunto SPARTAN Trainer at below £200. Sure the Garmin is better but is it £100 better?

Summary

If it was £200 I would be waxing lyrical about it. But it’s not, it’s got a relatively hefty $450/£360 price tag.

Overall it lived up to my first opinions on the 735XT 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 2018, they all work.It’s not the best triathlon watch money can be but, for sure, it is a contender in the mid price range.

This is a mature device. There might be a 745XT replacement in 2018/19 and it is VERY likely this will be in the same aesthetic form as the Forerunner 645 Music.

I still see it as a populist watch. And there is nothing wrong with that per se. I’m just not happy about the quality vs price. Features? OK, fair enough, it has those in abundance. Looks? sure, it’s pretty. I like wearing it WAY MORE than my ugly-920XT.

 

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

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Matthew Swainston (@StraightlineBoy)
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Garmin keep taunting us with these devices that are 95% great but some different annoying trade-offs with each model which as the review states makes the price quite hard to swallow. That’s a mighty big decrease in battery life over the 920; mines a year old and I think a 2 hour bike ride would still be maybe 10% battery used at most. Kind of sounds like Garmin need to sort out some firmware updates as that sounds so far below the claimed numbers but at nearly £400 (with a HR strap) I think I’ll wait for the updates rather than buying and hoping!

Race Leader
Admin

yep. I have to quantify the battery life more precisely. anecdotally I agree with what you say.

drseamus
Guest

How do you get the beta software to enable enough segments for a swimrun?

Race Leader
Admin

haven’t got the 735 with me.
I did try it. from memory either on the 920 or the 735. it did work tho I looked at it for enabling multiple RBRBRBRBRBR
but yes. not obvious.
I created a new multisport activity. try that. i’ll have a closer look later.