Garmin Forerunner 735XT vs 235: Which Is the Best Watch for You?

By | April 1, 2019

Last Updated on

Garmin is certainly getting noticed in the world of wearables. The GPS equipment manufacturer has steadily introduced several lines of smartwatches that could easily rival Fitbit or Apple Watch. A considerable part of the company’s success in this area is the Garmin Forerunner.

The Garmin Forerunner is a series of sports watches that is aimed at runners, cyclists, and triathletes. A lot of the models under the Forerunner name includes a GPS antenna, making it a true Garmin product. Garmin Forerunner devices have been around since 2003, and it has seen a lot of improvements ever since.

For today, let us take a look at theGarmin Forerunner 235 and Garmin Forerunner 735XT. Which one is better?

Round 1: Design

garmin forerunner 235 vs 735xt

When it comes to the way they look, there is not much difference between the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the 735XT. Both feature silicone straps, glass lens, and a round shaped watch face.

Even the dimensions are similar, with the Forerunner 235 being slightly bigger in diameter and thinner than the 735XT, as well as a little bit heavier at 1.48 ounces. Both have a 5 ATM water resistance rating. The color memory in pixel display on both devices measure 1.23 inches diagonally and has the same resolutions of 215 by 180 pixels.

However, prices for these devices are different. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is more affordable at $249.99. That is $100 cheaper than the 735XT’s $349.99 price tag.

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT, however, has a better battery life at up to 11 days when used in smartwatch mode, and 14 hours when used with the GPS and heart rate monitor turned on. The Forerunner 235 only has enough battery juice to last nine days in smartwatch mode and 11 hours in training mode.

However, the Garmin Forerunner 235 more storage, with enough space for 200 hours of activity data, as opposed to only 80 hours for the 735XT.

Round 2: Time-related features

Both the Garmin Forerunner 735XT and the 235 can function as an ordinary watch, a stopwatch, and an alarm clock. Both devices feature an automatic daylight saving time and GPS time sync.

These features mean that your Garmin Forerunner will automatically change the time if you travel to another time zone, or if DST takes effect, even without you remembering to do it. The Garmin Forerunner 735XT, however, also tells you when the sun will rise and set.

Round 3: Sensors and fitness data collected

The Garmin Forerunner 235 and the 735XT features an accelerometer, a heart rate monitor, two global positioning systems: GPS and GLONASS. These sensors mean that you can count the number of steps you make, keep track of the calories you burn, monitor the distance you have traveled, and even keep tabs on your sleeping behavior. Regardless of what model you choose, your Garmin device will automatically set goals for you depending on your current activity level. These devices will also remind you to move.

The Garmin 735XT, however, includes a compass.

Round 4: Connectivity

235 vd 735xt

Connectivity features for both the Garmin Forerunner 235 and 735XT are mainly the same for both devices. These smartwatches can alert you when you receive calls and text messages on your phone. They also have calendar and weather functions, and can even control the music on your smartphone.

Both devices can work as a shutter button for your phone’s camera. Further, you can connect these devices via Garmin Connect Mobile or ConnectIQ. These devices also feature the LiveTrack security feature that allows anybody to track your location on the Web.

While the Garmin Forerunner 735XT and 235 can find your phone if you misplace it, your phone can only search for the 735XT if you lose your smartwatch.

Round 5: Training, analysis, and planning features

These devices allow you to see only the data you need with customizable data pages. You can view your activity history on the device itself. Further, you do not have to do anything with the auto-scroll feature that automatically runs you through your data.

These devices allow you to exercise better with features such as auto pause, interval training, auto, and manual lap. It will even provide you with an estimate of your V02 max and aerobic training effect, as well as a measurement of speed and distance using GPS.

You can also customize the different activity profiles that it has. Other features that both the 735XT and the 235 offer include:

  • Advanced workouts
  • Downloadable training plans
  • Customizable alerts
  • Audio prompts
  • Finish time
  • Touch and button lock

As you can imagine, there are several training-related features that the Garmin Forerunner 735XT has that the 235 does not. First, the 735XT can act as your virtual exercise partner, and you can set the multisports profiles manually or have it change on its own. You can also get course guidance and use your device with Strava.

Round 6: Heart rate features

Right out of the box, the Garmin Forerunner 235 and 735XT can already tell you about your heart rate zones and alert you when you go out of these zones. It can even give you a more accurate reading of the calories you burned, and tell you how much time you need to recover. These devices can also broadcast your heart rate to connected ANT+ devices.

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT, however, can show you the percentage of your current heart rate as compared with either your resting or maximum heart rate. These features are handy since this will tell you if you are doing your exercises right. For instance, to do recovery training, you must keep your heart rate at 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, while anaerobic training requires anywhere from 82 to 89 percent of your maximum HR.

Round 7: Profiles available

The Garmin Forerunner 235 and the 735XT have ready running and cycling profiles. However, you can also get swimming profiles on the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. Even so, some data are not available on the Forerunner 235. For instance, the 235 does not have running dynamics such as ground contact time and vertical oscillation, while the 735XT keeps track of these.

Round 8: Amazon reviews and ratings

The Garmin Forerunner 235 gets very high ratings of 4.1 stars out of 5.0 on Amazon, with close to 1,600 reviewers leaving their opinions. Verified users like how it functions as a fitness tracker and running watch. They like the range of data and information that they get from the device, as well as the always-on screen that displays the latest data. They also praise the long battery life, the data export option, and the built-in heart rate monitor and GPS antennas.

Some reviewers, however, warn interested buyers that this device does not work well as a smartwatch. Others say that this might not be the best device for serious runners because it has inaccurate data for pace and has rudimentary functions and features. Others complain that the Garmin Forerunner 235 is made of cheap materials.

Meanwhile, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT gets an average rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0. Verified buyers say that the Garmin Forerunner 735XT is a great device that is appropriately sized and weighs just right. They commend its battery life and the range of apps that you can download onto the device. Others praise the customizable features you get with this device, plus the multi-sports profiles.

Other reviewers, however, warn interested buyers that the device might have too many data that it can overwhelm you. Meanwhile, others bash the company’s customer service, which they described as unhelpful and terrible. Some reviewers had problems with specific components such as the screen, heart rate monitor, or the watch itself breaking down after using the device for a short while.

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs. Garmin Forerunner 735XT: Side by side comparison of features and functionalities

To make it easier for you to see which Garmin device has which function, here is a comparison table detailing the similarities and differences between these two.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Price $249.99 $349.99
Chemically fortified glass lens Yes Yes
Silicone Strap Yes Yes
Physical size (inches) 1.77 by 1.77 by 0.46 1.75 by 1.75 by 0.47
Display size (inches) 1.23 1.23
Display resolution (pixels) 215 by 180 215 by 180
Transflective memory in pixel display Yes Yes
Weight (ounces) 1.48 1.42
Battery life in smartwatch mode (days) 9 11
Battery life in training mode (hours) 11 14
Water resistance rating 5 ATM 5 ATM
Color display Yes Yes
Storage for activity data (hours) 200 80
Clock features
Alarm clock Yes Yes
Automatic daylight saving time Yes Yes
GPS Time Sync Yes Yes
Stopwatch Yes Yes
Sunrise and sunset times No Yes
Time and date Yes Yes
Sensors
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Automatic goal setting Yes Yes
Calories burned Yes Yes
Compass No Yes
Distance traveled Yes Yes
GLONASS Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes
Heart rate monitor Yes Yes
Intensity minutes Yes Yes
Reminders to move Yes Yes
Sleep monitoring Yes Yes
Step counter Yes Yes
Connectivity
Calendar Yes Yes
Connect IQ Yes Yes
Controls smartphone music Yes Yes
Find My Phone Yes Yes
Find My Watch No Yes
Garmin Connect Mobile Yes Yes
LiveTrack Yes Yes
Smart notifications Yes Yes
VIRB Camera Remote Yes Yes
Weather Yes Yes
Planning, training, and analysis
Activity history on watch Yes Yes
Advanced workouts Yes Yes
Audio prompts Yes Yes
Auto Lap Yes Yes
Auto multisport activities No Yes
Auto Pause Yes Yes
Auto scroll Yes Yes
Configurable lap alerts No Yes
Course guidance No Yes
Customizable activity profiles Yes Yes
Customizable alerts Yes Yes
Customizable data pages Yes Yes
Downloadable training plans Yes Yes
Finish time Yes Yes
GPS speed and distance Yes Yes
Interval training Yes Yes
Manual lap Yes Yes
Manual multisport activities No Yes
Race an Activity No Yes
Segments No Yes
Strava features No Yes
Touch or button lock Yes Yes
Training Effect (aerobic) Yes Yes
V02 max Yes Yes
Virtual Partner No Yes
Heart rate features
% HRR No Yes
% of maximum heart rate No Yes
Heart rate alerts Yes Yes
Heart rate calories Yes Yes
Heart rate zones Yes Yes
HR broadcast Yes Yes
Recovery time Yes Yes
Sports profiles available
Cycling Yes Yes
Running Yes Yes
Swimming No Yes

Look elsewhere if…

There are several things that you cannot find on both the Garmin Forerunner 235 and 735XT. For instance, if you are one of those people who like to listen to music while they exercise, you should know that both of these devices are not able to store or playback music. You will need to have your phone around so that you can run or exercise to your favorite tunes.

If you are looking for a running watch that has a SIM slot so that you can use your device as a standalone phone, rather than connecting it to your smartphone, then you are out of luck with the Forerunner 735XT and 235. Speaking of your smartphone, there are not too many connected features to expect from both of these devices. You cannot use either the 235 or the 735XT to reply to incoming text messages or answer a call.

Also, even with the GPS antennas onboard, none of these devices will give you visual maps like the ones you see on your cars.

Final recommendations: Should you buy a Garmin Forerunner 235? Or spend more for a Garmin Forerunner 735XT?

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is one of the very first devices under this line of running focused smartwatches. At its price, it includes a heart rate monitor and GPS, sensors that you normally find on more expensive watches. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is not just a glorified pedometer; it can help you improve, be more fit, and healthier. It is an excellent tool if you are training for a marathon or just starting out.

Beginners will appreciate just how easy it is to use, and how it limits the data to only the essentials. However, if you like the 235, you might like the Garmin Forerunner 735XT a whole lot more.

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT adds a compass to the list of sensors you find on the 235, while also slightly trimming the size and weight of the 235. It has more features as well, such as the sunset and sunrise times, the ability to use your phone to find your watch, and getting percentages for your current heart rate compared to your maximum and resting HR.

However, it does cost more, and if you look at it closely, you would realize that not much has been added that would really make the Garmin Forerunner 735XT stand out and leave the Forerunner 235 in the dust. However, for those who are training for a triathlon, or has swimming and watersports in your list of exercises, then you might as well add an additional $100 and get the 735XT.

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