Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison & Upgrade

Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison

For those of you looking to upgrade here is a Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison.

Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison Garmin Fenix 5X 5 5S Forerunner 935 ReviewSo tri-fans. It’s here.

You probably have either a Fenix 3, a 735XT or a 920XT and you want to know if it’s worth the upgrade to a shiny new Forerunner 935 or Fenix 5

Really you’re going to buy one anyway, you’re just trying to justify it 😉

Actually, maybe not. It’s a bit more complex as you might be thinking of a Fenix 5 rather than a Forerunner 935 (aka Fenix 5tri). That confuses the picture somewhat as they are essentially VERY, VERY similar.

Really I can see very little from a tri-perspective that warrants a minor upgrade from the 735XT, F3, 920XT. Those 3 are all competent devices

If you currently own a Fenix 2 or Forerunner 910XT then YES there is a lot to upgrade for.

For a new tri-watch purchase go for the 935 over the 920XT and over the 735XT; UNLESS you are concerned about the price, plastic shell or screen shape in which case you get the 920XT

FULL, DETAILED FENIX/935 REVIEW: HERE (link to: WARNING there are some issues with the 5X that you need to be aware of before buying. These seem to be glossed over elsewhere in other Garmin-biased reviews.

Also be wary that there are ANT+ sensor issues with the 5X and GPS accuracy issues with the 935 eg (here)

Feature Comparison Table – below…keep going!

Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT ComparisonIf you are going to upgrade anyway then maybe the 935 represents a nice little saving over the Fenix 5? but if you could afford the 935 then what’s another £100, or so, more?

You might ask, “What might tempt the5krunner to move from a 920XT to the 935??


If I didn’t do this the5krunner-thing then I would not upgrade. As it happens I’m probably going to end up with a 935 and a Fenix 5x but only because of this blog (Edit: I did!). Although I’m really not sure if I will use anything other than my 920XT for racing in all its rectangular greatness. Edit: I used a 935 for my Ironman purely because of battery considerations.

Training is a different matter entirely, I use loads of watches for that (discussed here) …just some more than others; I still like the Spartan Sport FWIW 😉 now with oHR but called ‘wHR’…nicey nice. Another reason that I would upgrade to the F5/935 is for the “techiness value” of the newer CIQ 2 apps as our 920XTs only support the older CIQ version (CIQ 1.X). But that still has ALL the apps working fine right now.

Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison


Here are my pro’s and cons.

  • Better cost & Quick Release kit of 935 vs Fenix 5.
  • Better battery & Prettier 935/F5 vs 920XT.

That’s it.

I appreciate there are many more subtle differences but, to me and my training, they are trivial eg weight of watch. You’re different of course – for example, I don’t use STRAVA that much and you could be segment-mad and want those segments on a fancy higher-res screen (Buy a Wahoo, Lezyne or Garmin Edge!). Go for it. You know what to do.

Garmin Fenix 5X

To me what is missing is something like WHOOP functionality. ie really integrated and actionable stuff that tells you to train less or sleep more. Stuff that makes you behave differently, behave better. A game-changer. Having ‘HotKey’ functionality, on the other hand, I can live without. But, to be fair, Firstbeat and Garmin are moving towards the type of actionable feedback provided by WHOOP.

Similarly we STILL have all these running cycling/dynamics but “so what?”. Other than “run faster” how exactly would you lower your ground contact time? So we still need integration with technique coaching (eg like SHFT). That will come. Or we need a better metric ie instead go and buy STRYD for it’s running power and super accurate running pace sensor. WAY more useful for training more accurately and maybe even getting faster.

Garmin Fenix 5X 5 5S Forerunner 935 Review
Sport Screen Layouts

I was hoping the Fenix 5/935 might have had something more revolutionary, hardware-wise. Like XPLOVA’s X5 built-in SIM card. Maybe that will come soon with the Garmin Edge 1030/1010?

What might make a more personal difference in a few months’ time is newer CIQ v2.2 ‘apps’. I was sceptical at first. But now there are some quite interesting and useful apps emerging. I always mention XERT at this point but there are many more now. Indeed the inbuilt Training Peaks” workout downloading app” could be useful too if your coach uses TP, for example. I don’t use TP.

The integration with turbo trainers is great but integration to some other peripherals is of ‘peripheral use’ at best (pun intended, as always) but some people love that sort of thing. Then again WIFI could be considered peripheral too but, for some people, it might save 5 minutes a day of manually syncing data and that adds up to a lot of quality time over the year.

So what does NOT add up for me; may well add up for you and your needs.

Go forth and spend!

The fenix5/935 is prettier than earlier watches 😉 Maybe the colour will be a clincher 🙂 But, the Suunto is prettier still. Just saying…if colour is your thing.

Recommendation: Don’t upgrade! Instead, for your 920XT/F3 buy a new front wheel or STRYD or a power meter for your bike. You’ll get faster with those! Maybe 😉 Although admittedly you might look slightly less cool.

Here’s a table showing very similar products for our Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison. Enjoy a very hard game of ‘Spot The Difference‘ 😉

Fenix 5Forerunner 935Forerunner 920XT
Some features require accessories
Lens Materialglass or sapphire crystalglassglass
Physical size47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm47.0 x 47.0 x 13.9 mm48.0 x 55.0 x 12.7 mm
Weight85 g (silicone band)49 g61 g
156 g (metal band)
Water rating10 ATM (100m)5 ATM (50m)5 ATM (50m)
Display size1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter1.1″ x 0.8″ (29.0 x 21.0 mm)
Display resolution240 x 240 pixels240 x 240 pixels205 x 148 pixels
Battery lifeSmart mode: Up to 2 weeskSmart Mode: Up to 2 weeksWeeks as a watch
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hoursGPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hoursGPS/HRM mode: Up to 16 hours
UltraTrac mode: Up to 50 (60?) hours – not tested!UltraTrac mode: Up to 50 (60?) hours – not tested!UltraTrac mode: Up to 40 hours
WiFiSelected modelsYesYes
Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitorYesYesNo
Barometric altimeterYesYesYes
Daily Smart Features
ConnectivityBluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi with sapphire editionsBluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi®Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi®
Connect IQ ‘Apps’Yes, V2Yes, V2Yes, V1
Smart notificationsYesYesYes
Music controlsYesYesNo
Face It™ watch face creatorYesYesYes
Find my Phone featureYesYesNo
VIRB® remoteYesYesYes
Activity Tracking Features
Step counterYesYesYes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)YesYesYes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)YesYesYes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)YesYesYes
Calories burnedYesYesYes
Floors climbedYesYesNo
Distance traveledYesYesYes
Intensity minutesYesYesYes
Move IQ™YesYesYes
Training, Planning and Analysis Features
GPS speed and distanceYesYesYes
Customizable data pagesYesYesYes
Advanced workoutsYesYesYes
Downloadable training plansYesYesYes
Auto Pause®YesYesYes
Auto scrollYesYesYes
Auto Lap®YesYesYes
Manual lapYesYesYes
Configurable lap alertsYesYesYes
Customizable alertsYesYesYes
Vibration alertsYesYesYes
Audio promptsYesYesYes
Finish timeYesYesYes
Virtual PartnerYesYesYes
Virtual Racer™YesYesYes
Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking training data, such as VO2 max and anaerobic threshold, and comparing it to recent data)YesYes
V02 maxYesYesYes
Training Load (combines heart rate and VO2 max to score your intensity over 28 days’ time to help ensure you’re in the optimal range to meet your goal)YesYesNo
Training Effect (aerobic)YesYesYes (Total)
Training Effect (anaerobic)YesYesNo
Course guidanceYesYesYes
Activity history on watchYesYesYes
Personal records (running, cycling, swimming)YesYesYes
Strava Segments (Live)YesYesNo
Auto multisport activitiesYesYesYes
Manual multisport activitiesYesYesYes
Customizable activity profilesYesYesYes
Touch and/or button lockYesYesYes
Hot keysYesYesNo
Group LiveTrackYesYesNo
Heart Rate Features
HR zonesYesYesYes
HR alertsYesYesYes
HR caloriesYesYesYes
% HR maxYesYesYes
% HRRYesYesYes
Recovery timeYesYesYes
Auto max HRYesYesYes
HRV stress test (measures your heart rate variability while standing still, for 3 minutes, to provide you with an estimated stress level; the scale of this is 1 to 100; low scores indicate lower stress levels)YesYesNo
Records heart rate while swimmingYesYesYes
HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices)YesYesNo
Running Features
Preloaded run profilesRunning, Indoor Running, Trail RunningRunning, Indoor Running, Trail Running
GPS-based distance, time and paceYesYesYes
Running dynamicsYesYesYes
Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the benefit ration to stride length)YesYesYes
Ground contact time and balance (shows how much time, in the running motion, your foot is on the ground rather than in flight and lets you check your running symmetry)YesYesYes
Stride length (real time)YesYesCIQ
Cadence (provides real-time number of steps per minute)YesYesYes
Physiological measurementsYesYesYes
Performance condition (after running for 6–20 minutes, compares your real-time condition to your average fitness levels)YesYesYes
Lactate threshold (through analysis of your pace and heart rate, estimates the point where your muscles start to rapidly fatigue)YesYesNo
Run workoutsYesYesYes
Personal records (running)YesYesYes
Race predictorYesYesYes
Foot pod capableYesYesYes
Recovery advisorYes
Outdoor Recreation Features
Point-to-point navigationYesYesYes
Bread crumb trail in real timeYesYesYes
Back to startYesYesYes
Elevation profileyesyesNo
Distance to destinationyesyesyes
Barometric trend indicatoryesyesNo
Trail run auto climbyesyesNo
Vertical speedyesyesNo
Total ascent/descentyesyesNo
Weather Datayesyesyes
GPS coordinatesyesyesyes (partial)
Cycling Features
Courses (compete against previous activities)yesyesyes
Bike lap and lap maximum power (with power sensor)yesyesyes
Race an activityyesyesyes
Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal)yesyesyes
Interval trainingyesyesyes
FTP (Functional Threshold Power)yesyesyes
Strava featuresyesyesyes
Power Meter Compatible yesyesyes
Swimming Features
Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)yesyesyes
Stroke recognitionyesyesyes
Pool lap recognitionyesyesyes
Swim workoutsyesyesyes
Stroke efficiency (SWOLF)yesyesyes
Automatic intervalsyesyesyes
Advanced swim (drill, rest timers)yesyesyes
Open-water swim distanceyesyesyes
Multisport modeyesyesyes

There is 10% off most stuff at Power Meter City with the coupon / discount / promo code: the5krunner10. HOWEVER there is a 10% store credit for many Garmin items. Sorry. Garmin sternly frown upon discounting in any case while products are under MAP.



power meter city
10% Discount Coupon ‘the5krunner10’ or 10% store credit with Garmin
Garmin Fenix 5
Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur480/$420/£430 and will stay around that level until 2019. .
Garmin Fenix 5S
Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur495/$550/£425 and will stay around that level until 2019 but sale prices will come and go. .
Garmin Fenix 5X
Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur700/$620/£530 and will stay around that level until 2019 but sale prices will come and go. .
Garmin Forerunner 935
Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur450/$420/£430 and will stay around that level until Summer 2019. .

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8 thoughts on “Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT Comparison & Upgrade

  1. Thank you – you have just saved me £500 that I can spend on new wheels instead !
    I will for now be sticking with my Garmin 920XT – does everything i need and I can live with the square face 🙂

  2. What about GPS accuracy. I actually gave away my Fenix 3 HR because I was disappointed with GPS accuracy and bought a 735XT instead which I find a lot better. Is the Fenix 5 better GPS performance vice than the Fenix 3 HR and is the 935 even better then the Fenix 5 being made out of plastic?

    1. They seem to be working on it 😉

      The Fenix5[S;X] just got a beta package (v2.72) which contains a GPS update file as well.

      As for which will be better, only time will tell. But I suspect plastic beats metal any day.

      They both, most likely, use the same GPS chipset, which incidentally is the same one as in FR630/FR920XT/Fenix3 etc: The MediaTek 3333. But it seems to have an updated DSP (Digital Signal Processor), or it simply is a newer Digital Signal Processing software version…

      Proof from the Fenix beta package file (using tools in linux):

      strings GUPDATE.GCD | grep MT3

      Proof from the FR920XT/Fenix3 etc latest GPS file:

      strings GPSChipsetTypeM5_300.gcd | grep MT3

      1. and you are a forensic detective in your day job right 😉 ?
        nice work!
        it’s not simply the quality of the chip that counts. although that is obviously important. I know someone at tomtom who has given me the lowdown on gps accuracy (well some of it). there are far more accurate chips out there but they are too expensive. then there are issues with the physical position of the antennae and quality of that. then there are issues of electrical shielding. then there are issue of the algorithms (eg how do you handle a swinging arm). and that’s just an overview. not sure about metal vs plastic but intuitively plastic would seem better

  3. Just over the weekend I had a chance to try out the new 935, and there is another “little” thing that we might be missing (I mean those that had not had a chance to touch and feel the watch).
    I have a 920XT and although it looks ugly (my personal opinion) it is a very robust and well made device – even the wrist strap is sold. I can used/wear it (and I do it very often in cold weather) over the shirt or even a jacket. The wrist strap is wide, solid and hold the watch while running, etc. well on hand without moving.
    The new 935 wrist strap is out of stretchy rubber, feels not very solid, like it will have problems keeping the watch in place on hand, and it is quite narrow (very narrow). For me this is really a KO criterion for the watch – not to mention lack of “adding value” to my training/racing over 920XT

  4. Tank You. I have xt920 and thought exactly like that. I got my money and bought an edge 820 (maps and routes) and there’s still money left over for a used power meter. Thank you very much.

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