Comparison // Upgrade ? : Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT

segment-complete-935So 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.

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 similar.

Really I can see very little from a tri-perspective that warrants a minor upgrade. 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


If 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. Although I’m really not sure if I will use anything other than my 920XT for racing in all its rectangular greatness. 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 is for the techiness of the newer CIQ apps as my 920XT only supports the older CIQ version. But that still has ALL the apps working fine right now.

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. 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.

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 a la 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.

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 Edge 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 out there. 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.  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.

Here’s a table showing very similar products. Enjoy a very hard game of ‘Spot The Difference‘.

Fenix 5 Forerunner 935 Forerunner 920XT
Some features require accessories
Lens Material glass or sapphire crystal glass glass
Physical size 47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm 47.0 x 47.0 x 13.9 mm 48.0 x 55.0 x 12.7 mm
Weight 85 g (silicone band) 49 g 61 g
156 g (metal band)
Water rating 10 ATM (100m) 5 ATM (50m) 5 ATM (50m)
Display size 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter 1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter 1.1″ x 0.8″ (29.0 x 21.0 mm)
Display resolution 240 x 240 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 205 x 148 pixels
Battery life Smart mode: Up to 2 weesk Smart Mode: Up to 2 weeks Weeks as a watch
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours GPS/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
WiFi Selected models Yes Yes
ALERTS Audio/Visual/Vibrate Audio/Visual/Vibrate Audio/Visual/Vibrate
GPS Yes Yes Yes
Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor Yes Yes No
Barometric altimeter Yes Yes Yes
Compass Yes Yes No
Gyroscope Yes Yes No
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes
Thermometer Yes Yes No
Daily Smart Features
Connectivity Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi with sapphire editions Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi® Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+™, Wi-Fi®
Connect IQ ‘Apps’ Yes, V2 Yes, V2 Yes, V1
Smart notifications Yes Yes Yes
Calendar Yes Yes Yes
Weather Yes Yes Yes
Music controls Yes Yes No
Face It™ watch face creator Yes Yes Yes
Find my Phone feature Yes Yes No
VIRB® remote Yes Yes Yes
Activity Tracking Features
Step counter Yes Yes Yes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it) Yes Yes Yes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal) Yes Yes Yes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep) Yes Yes Yes
Calories burned Yes Yes Yes
Floors climbed Yes Yes No
Distance traveled Yes Yes Yes
Intensity minutes Yes Yes Yes
TrueUp™ Yes Yes Yes
Move IQ™ Yes Yes Yes
Training, Planning and Analysis Features
GPS speed and distance Yes Yes Yes
Customizable data pages Yes Yes Yes
Advanced workouts Yes Yes Yes
Downloadable training plans Yes Yes Yes
Auto Pause® Yes Yes Yes
Auto scroll Yes Yes Yes
Auto Lap® Yes Yes Yes
Manual lap Yes Yes Yes
Configurable lap alerts Yes Yes Yes
Customizable alerts Yes Yes Yes
Vibration alerts Yes Yes Yes
Audio prompts Yes Yes Yes
Finish time Yes Yes Yes
Virtual Partner Yes Yes Yes
Virtual Racer™ Yes Yes Yes
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) Yes Yes
V02 max Yes Yes Yes
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) Yes Yes No
Training Effect (aerobic) Yes Yes Yes (Total)
Training Effect (anaerobic) Yes Yes No
Course guidance Yes Yes Yes
Activity history on watch Yes Yes Yes
Personal records (running, cycling, swimming) Yes Yes Yes
Strava Segments (Live) Yes Yes No
Auto multisport activities Yes Yes Yes
Manual multisport activities Yes Yes Yes
Customizable activity profiles Yes Yes Yes
Touch and/or button lock Yes Yes Yes
Hot keys Yes Yes No
LiveTrack Yes Yes Yes
Group LiveTrack Yes Yes No
Heart Rate Features
HR zones Yes Yes Yes
HR alerts Yes Yes Yes
HR calories Yes Yes Yes
% HR max Yes Yes Yes
% HRR Yes Yes Yes
Recovery time Yes Yes Yes
Auto max HR Yes Yes Yes
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) Yes Yes No
Records heart rate while swimming Yes Yes Yes
HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices) Yes Yes No
Running Features
Preloaded run profiles Running, Indoor Running, Trail Running Running, Indoor Running, Trail Running
GPS-based distance, time and pace Yes Yes Yes
Running dynamics Yes Yes Yes
Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the benefit ration to stride length) Yes Yes Yes
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) Yes Yes Yes
Stride length (real time) Yes Yes CIQ
Cadence (provides real-time number of steps per minute) Yes Yes Yes
Physiological measurements Yes Yes Yes
Performance condition (after running for 6–20 minutes, compares your real-time condition to your average fitness levels) Yes Yes Yes
Lactate threshold (through analysis of your pace and heart rate, estimates the point where your muscles start to rapidly fatigue) Yes Yes No
Run workouts Yes Yes Yes
Personal records (running) Yes Yes Yes
Race predictor Yes Yes Yes
Foot pod capable Yes Yes Yes
Recovery advisor Yes
Outdoor Recreation Features
Point-to-point navigation Yes Yes Yes
Bread crumb trail in real time Yes Yes Yes
Back to start Yes Yes Yes
TracBack® Yes Yes No
Elevation profile yes yes No
Distance to destination yes yes yes
Barometric trend indicator yes yes No
Trail run auto climb yes yes No
Vertical speed yes yes No
Total ascent/descent yes yes No
Weather Data yes yes yes
GPS coordinates yes yes yes (partial)
Cycling Features
Courses (compete against previous activities) yes yes yes
Bike lap and lap maximum power (with power sensor) yes yes yes
Race an activity yes yes yes
Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal) yes yes yes
Interval training yes yes yes
FTP (Functional Threshold Power) yes yes yes
Strava features yes yes yes
Power Meter Compatible yes yes yes
Swimming Features
Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories) yes yes yes
Stroke recognition yes yes yes
Pool lap recognition yes yes yes
Swim workouts yes yes yes
Stroke efficiency (SWOLF) yes yes yes
Automatic intervals yes yes yes
Advanced swim (drill, rest timers) yes yes yes
Open-water swim distance yes yes yes
Multisport mode yes yes yes

7 thoughts on “Comparison // Upgrade ? : Garmin 935, Fenix 5, Forerunner 920XT

  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?

    • 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

      • 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

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