The Garmin Forerunner 235 and 735XT are very similar watches, with a few key distinctions.
While the Forerunner 235 offers basic multisport capabilities suitable for the average sports enthusiast, the 735XT offers features that specifically cater towards triathletes such as dedicated triathlon and open water swimming sport profiles.
In short, when it comes to Forerunner 235 vs 735XT; if you're either an ultra-runner, endurance event enthusiast, open water swimmer, triathlete, or a serious runner; then the extra 100$ you spend on 735XT would probably worth it. Otherwise, I'd recommend the 235.
The more expensive 735XT also packs the ability to load pre-planned routes for use during an activity; an invaluable feature to those who run on unmarked trails.
With 1.23 inch colour-capable transflective displays apiece, both offer a great viewing experience when flicking through information during an activity.
Both watches offer the typical array of GPS data fields such as distance, pace, time and heart rate. The watches also offer multisport profiles; this means you can use them for running, cycling, hiking and a number of other different activities.
Both watches also sync via the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android.
Battery life is also fairly similar on either model. In watch mode you can average around a week on both watches, and in GPS activity mode you can expect around 14 hours of continuous tracking for the 235 and 16 hours for the 735XT.
The identical silicon bands found on either watch are extremely comfortable and the watches them self are so light that you can often forget you are wearing them.
This is ideal for long runs, rides or triathlon events in the case of the 735XT model, where comfort is a priority.
Both watches also offer near identical software experiences, and can similarly be paired to ANT+ accessories such as chest heart rate straps and bike cadence sensors.
The identical charging cable that comes with both the Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 735XT clips on to the side of the watch, meaning the watch can be charged while on the move (alternatively, the watch could easily be stowed in a backpack).
This means that if you intend to use the 735XT for long triathlon events such as the Ironman, you could carry an external battery pack to charge the watch while completing the ride section of the race.
Both of these watches also offer the ability to control music playing through your phone via the Bluetooth connection, and display incoming notifications directly on the watch face.
- The 735XT is an extra $100
- Battery life: the 735XT just slightly outperforms the 235 model in GPS activity mode
- The 735XT allows for pairing with a compatible power meter for cycling
- Provided a compatible power meter is paired, the 735XT is capable of producing an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) value for cycling
- The 735XT has the ability to display live Garmin and Strava segments during activities (Strava Premium membership is required for Strava Live segments)
- When paired with a compatible accessory, the 735XT is capable of displaying advanced running dynamics such as vertical oscillation, stride length, ground contact time and ground contact time balance
- The 735XT is capable of tracking both pool and open water swimming activities
- The 735XT has a dedicated triathlon sport mode, with built in auto-detection to determine each discipline
- The 735XT has the Virtual Partner and Virtual Racer features
- The 735XT is capable of waypoint navigation and displaying pre-determined courses
- The 735XT has a digital compass built in to aid course and waypoint navigation
- The 735XT has a built in sunrise/sunset times widget
- The 735XT offers additional heart rate data widgets, such as % of HR max
- The 735XT is able to determine a lactate threshold estimate when paired with a compatible accessory
- The 735XT is capable of UltraTrac mode (UltraTrac mode is a GPS setting that ceases or decreases the rate of GPS sampling to save battery power. When GPS is off, the device uses the built in accelerometer to calculate speed and distance. Speed and distance data accuracy are reduced in UltraTrac mode. The accuracy of the data can improve after a few outdoor runs using GPS)
- The 735XT offers Garmin’s performance condition metric (after running for 6-20 minutes, your real-time condition is perceived and compared to your average fitness level)
I have highlighted above the differences that I think should be valued and therefore contemplated the most when making a Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 735XT purchase decision.
Forerunner 235 vs 735XT Conclusion: Which should you buy, and why?
I have decided to categorize this conclusion into 4 recommendations, each for a different type of athlete with different sporting pursuits.
- For ultra-runners or endurance event enthusiasts, I would strongly advise you spend the extra $100 for the Forerunner 735XT. Both the course navigation and UltraTrac battery mode features are ideal for activities in excess of 12 hours where navigation and battery life are crucial.
- For open water swimmers or triathletes, I would also advise you to shell out the extra cash for the 735XT. The plethora of swimming and triathlon-specific features are perfect for beginner triathletes or those who are keen pool or open-water swimmers.
- For the serious runner, I also have to advise that you buy the 735XT over the 235.
The addition of advanced running dynamics, Garmin/Strava segments, lactate threshold data and performance condition metrics make this the ideal watch for anyone wanting to take their running to the next level.
- And finally, if none of the above listed features appeal to you, I would advise you to buy the Forerunner 235.
The 235 is still a fantastic multisport watch with more than enough features to satisfy the avid runner, cyclist or hiker. You will not be disappointed with your choice.
Here's a good video review of the 735XT: