Function over Form
The Forerunner 735XT has a curious design for a sports watch; it’s plastic construction is far behind other premium offerings on the market while its relatively svelte design doesn’t exactly scream ‘rugged adventurer’ either. There is no touch screen display that requires a glass screen protector nor is there any voice command capability. What it does have though, is a very tough chassis that will survive most, if not all forms of abuse (short of running a tank over it). Navigating the OS is done via large, tactile buttons surrounding the watch face which feel just as sturdy as the main chassis.
Aside from software updates, Garmin has fitted their latest optical heart rate sensor to the Forerunner, called the ‘Garmin Elevate’, which promises improved accuracy
The Forerunner might not be made out of premium materials, but its tough-as-nails plastic construction means it weighs a nigh-unnoticeable 41g!
Perforated wrist strap provides excellent breathability, allowing the Forerunner to be worn without discomfort over long periods of time. Oh, and it’s also waterproof up to 50m, so you don’t even have to take it off when you shower (or swim, or dive).
While the construction of the watch’s body feels well equipped to handle the rigours of just about any ironman challenge, navigating the Garmin software can be an exercise in frustration. There’s a bit of a learning curve to when you first use it as the buttons sometimes don’t do quite what you expect due to it being very context specific. While you’ll get the hang of it eventually, those who are expecting a quick setup right from the get-go will be in for a long, head-scratching session.
Once you do get the software working, you’ll be amazed with what the Forerunner 735XT can track. From running, cycling, swimming and even multi-sport modes, the watch is an absolute champ. The included GPS sensor is also great while running, giving the option to run a course, complete with arrow navigation. Connection was pretty good in my testing, with almost no dropped signals throughout multiple runs. The new HR sensor is also definitely better than the older units, though it sometimes can miss some data points, especially when cycling.
Do note that the built-in Heart Rate sensor is disabled while underwater, and you’ll need the HRM-TRI heart rate strap if you’d like to monitor your heart rate. One sore point here is that the battery life isn’t quite as good as other models. At around 14 hours with GPS and HR tracking, it won’t last through longer, ultra-level events like 100KM runs. As such, if that’s what you’re about, you might want to look elsewhere.
By Daryl Tan
Dimensions: 44.5 x 44.5 x 11.9 mm
Battery life: Up to 24 hours in UltraTrac mode without optional HR; up to 14 hours in activity mode with GPS and optical HR, up to 11 days in watch mode, including activity tracking, smart notifications and HR tracking
Water rating: 5 ATM
Operating System: Android 6.0
Display: 215 x 180 pixels
Verdict: Its cumbersome software and slightly reduced battery life is offset by comfortable ergonomics and support for a wide range of activities.
Total Score: 7.8/10
Review by Daryl Tan.