Garmin Forerunner 35 vs Garmin Fenix 5: Which Should You Buy?

When it comes to sports watches, there are a lot of devices that you can buy. Garmin joined an already crowded market that is increasingly getting busier every single day. Garmin is a company that made its name making GPS devices.

The company has products for your car, for your boat, or for serious athletes. They also have a line of products for your wrists, including a wide range of activity trackers and smartwatches.

It produces several lines of smartwatches that doubles as an activity tracker. First, you have the Vivovit and Vivosmart lines of activity trackers. You also have the Forerunner series that is better suited for runners, and the Fenix range of devices that can track multiple sports. Further, you also have the Vivomove, which looks like a watch but is more geared to be a fitness tracker.

For today, we are zeroing in on two of the company’s product lines: the Garmin Forerunner 35 and the Garmin Fenix 5 series. Which one is the better buy?

Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35

The Garmin Forerunner 35  is a very affordable GPS running watch that also features a wrist-based heart rate monitor. You do not have to pay too much for a running watch that can keep track of your location and pulse. What’s more, the Garmin Forerunner 35 has some nifty features as well.

Features of the Garmin Forerunner 35

The GPS embedded inside the Garmin Forerunner 35 helps to give you more in-depth data about your runs. It will tell you how fast and how far you are running, and even where you are running. Meanwhile, the heart rate monitor keeps track of your heart health continuously.

Fitness features

The Garmin Forerunner 35 also has an accelerometer that allows it to track your steps, count the calories you burn, and even monitor your sleep. Combine the accelerometer with the GPS and HR monitor, you can get more advanced fitness data right from your wrist.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 will measure the distance you travel, how intense your workout was, and even how long you were exercising intensely. It will also set fitness goals automatically, ensuring that you are getting challenged enough to improve. The device will also remind you to move.

More than just fitness, the Garmin Forerunner 35 will also give you running-related data such as the distance, pace, and time of your runs, as well as the cadence. What’s more, it gives you an estimate of your VO2 max, and you can view your activity history on your watch.

Smart features

More than merely functioning as a running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is also a smartwatch that can notify you if you get calls or text messages on your smartphone. You can also use the Forerunner 35 to find your phone or control music on your phone. More than that, you can get weather updates right from your wrist.

However, if you are coming from an Apple Watch or an Android Wear device, you might find the connected features of the Garmin Forerunner 35 very basic.  For one, you cannot answer calls or reply to text messages on the device.  Instead, you will need to fish out your phone from your bag or your pocket.

Time features

As a smartwatch, the Garmin Forerunner 35 also does an excellent job of telling you the time and the date. It can also function as a stopwatch and an alarm clock. It can even automatically adjust the time depending on your GPS location, or if you are entering daylight saving time.


The Garmin Forerunner 35 comes with a battery that can last up to nine days in smartwatch mode. If you have the GPS and the heart rate monitor turned on, you can get up to 13 hours without recharging.

Design of the Garmin Forerunner 35

The Garmin Forerunner 35 has a squarish face with a silicone strap and glass lens. It measures 1.40 by 1.60 by 0.52 inches. It has a transflective memory in pixel display that measures 0.93 inches on all sides and has a resolution of 128 by 128 pixels. The whole thing weighs 1.32 ounces.

This device is water-resistant. You can take it swimming, thanks to its WR rating of 5 ATM.

Garmin Fenix 5

garmin fenix 5 watch

There are several versions of the Garmin Fenix 5 available, and these usually fall under the Fenix 5, 5S , and 5X  categories. Then you also have the Plus versions of each. Further, you have the sapphire glass editions vs. the regular glass editions. It is difficult to write about all of them, so here’s a rundown of what’s different.

Sapphire Crystal vs. Regular Glass

Sapphire crystal is stronger than the regular glass versions. As such, it is less likely to get scratched or break. Sapphire version devices are also more expensive, by around $100 compared to their non-sapphire counterparts.  Further, only the sapphire version devices have Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Sizes Vary

The Garmin Fenix 5, 5S, and 5X have different sizes.  For instance, the 5S has a width of 42 millimeters, which makes it more attractive for women or those with smaller wrists.

Then the Fenix 5 is standard at 47 millimeters, while the Fenix 5X is great for bigger wrists. At 51 millimeters, this version also includes mapping with a bigger battery, more storage, and more processing power.


Different versions come in a variety of band and case colors. For instance, the Fenix 5S comes in either white or silver bezel, and your choice from white, black, or turquoise.

Meanwhile, the Fenix 5 Sapphire edition has a choice between black or slate gray bezel, and your choice of black or metal band. Aside from these color choices, you also have versions that come with an extra strap in the box.


There are two versions of the Garmin Fenix 5 series that allow you to avail of the HR strap bundle. The Fenix 5 with the slate gray bezel and black strap, and the Fenix 5 Sapphire with the black bezel and band. If you like to get the HRM-TRI strap that is an excellent way to capture workout data, you can only choose between these two.

Features of the Garmin Fenix 5

Focusing on the Garmin Fenix 5, which sells for less than $500, what are the features you can expect?

Clock features

The Garmin Fenix 5 gives you the correct date and time, acts as an alarm clock, timer, and stopwatch. It also adjusts the time automatically if you go into a place with a different time zone via the GPS time sync feature, as well as when daylight saving time becomes in effect. You can also get sunrise and sunset times.


The Garmin Fenix 5 has a full range of sensors including both a GPS and GLONASS antenna, the heart rate monitor, a compass, gyroscope, and an accelerometer. It also has a barometric altimeter and thermometer on board.

These sensors help the device to give you a range of fitness data. The Garmin Fenix 5 can count your calories burned, steps, floors climbed, and distance. It can also track your sleep, remind you to move, and set goals automatically. It can also monitor your stress all day.

Smart features

Garmin Fenix 5 works with Bluetooth, ANT+, and Wi-Fi if you have the sapphire version. It delivers calls, apps, and text notifications from your phone, weather updates and lets you control music on your smartphone.

You can use the device to find your phone and vice versa. It also acts as a camera remote. You can also customize watch faces, widgets, apps, and data fields via ConnectIQ.

Comparing Garmin Forerunner 35 and the Garmin Fenix 5

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a low-cost running watch that is meant to be used by beginners, while the Fenix 5 series includes several smartwatches that deliver a lot of functionalities.

The range of features and the wealth of data you have on the Fenix 5 make it perfect for more serious runners and athletes. As such, you can expect the Fenix 5 devices to be more expensive than the Forerunner 35.

All of these devices can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellites to provide you with location data. However, if you opt for the Fenix 5 Plus, you will also have access to Galileo satellites. What’s more, while every Garmin Forerunner 35 and Fenix 5 devices offer USB and Bluetooth connectivity, only the Fenix 5 Plus and the Fenix 5 sapphire versions have Wi-Fi connectivity.

Garmin Fenix 5 is also more water-resistant than the Forerunner 35. You also cannot download apps or use group live track on your Forerunner 35.

Music and Payments

The Garmin Fenix 5 series watches and the Forerunner 35 can control the music on your smartphone. However, only the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can store music on the device itself. It is also one of the few lines of Garmin smartwatches that you can use to pay with your wrist using near-field communication.

Sports Tracking

forerunner 35

The Garmin Fenix 5 series and the Garmin Forerunner 35 can help you track everything when it comes to cycling and running. However, the Garmin Forerunner 35 does not have the race predictor and recovery advisor that the Fenix devices have.

And while the Forerunner 35 is water-resistant, only the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Plus devices are designed for swimming and for training for triathlons.

Sensors and Fitness Tracking

The Garmin Forerunner 35 has fewer sensors than the Fenix devices, which additionally have a magnetic compass, barometric altimeter, and thermometer. The additional sensors help the Fenix 5 devices to track more fitness data including floors climbed and temperature recording.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and Garmin Forerunner 35

To make it easier to see what features are present or missing from these devices, here is a side-by-side comparison of these three lines of Garmin smartwatches. Garmin Fenix 5 and 5 Plus includes the 5, 5S, and 5X models.

Garmin Fenix 5 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Garmin Forerunner 35
GPS Yes Yes Yes
Galileo No Yes Yes
Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes
USB Yes Yes Yes
Wi-Fi Yes, Sapphire versions Yes No
Water resistance 100M 100M 50M
App download Yes Yes No
Fitness tracking Yes Yes Yes
Controls music on your smartphone Yes Yes Yes
Stores music No Yes No
NFC payments No Yes No
Smart notifications Yes Yes Yes
Live Tracking Yes Yes Yes
Group Live Tracking Yes Yes No
Designed for cycling? Yes Yes Yes
Designed for running? Yes Yes Yes
VO2 Max Yes Yes Yes
Race predictor Yes Yes No
Recovery advisor Yes Yes No
Designed for swimming? Yes Yes No
Designed for triathlons? Yes Yes No
Multisport mode? Yes Yes No
Barometric altimeter Yes Yes No
Magnetic compass Yes Yes No
Heart rate monitor Yes Yes Yes
Thermometer Yes Yes No

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs. Garmin Fenix 5: What Should You Buy?

fenix 5s

The Garmin Fenix 5 series of devices is probably one of the best, if not the best line of sports watches from Garmin. The thing is, it does not have revolutionary features, and it does not stand out when used as a smartwatch. If you want to more interactions between your watch and your phone, then you should get an Apple Watch or any of the Android Wear devices.

However, when used as a fitness tracker and multi-sports watch, it is an excellent device. As a running watch, there is very little that you will want to change or add to this device. It delivers all the fitness tracking information that you have come to expect from multi-sport watches.

Additionally, you get more advanced metrics. The Garmin Fenix 5 also has a good battery life even when the GPS and the heart rate monitor is turned on.

But, it is not a cheap watch either. With prices starting from $499, there are more affordable watches out there. However, very few will be able to match its range of sensors and the fitness data it gives. If you can spare around $100 more, you can get the Plus version that now features Wi-Fi even on the base models, contactless NFC payments, and maps. The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus series also has Galileo support for better GPS accuracy.

Don’t Snub the Garmin Forerunner 35 Just Yet

At prices as low as $169.99, you cannot dismiss the Garmin Forerunner 35 either. At that price, this device already features both a GPS sensor and a heart rate monitor, on top of the accelerometer. These sensors will be able to give you all the statistics that you will need to improve your running activities.

If you are merely into running or cycling, or if you are a new runner training for a marathon or other running events, then the Garmin Forerunner 35 might be an excellent watch for you. However, if you consider yourself as a more advanced runner or if you are training for a triathlon, then you should get the Garmin Fenix 5.

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