Wondering if it’s worth it to buy the Garmin Forerunner 35 instead of the cheaper Garmin Forerunner 25?
I ran for a full year with the 25, then upgraded in 2017 a few months after the 35 launched.
To be honest, both are excellent entry-level watches that provide the basics for a productive run, but the 35 is just flat out better.
It’s a clear upgrade in every way, but is it worth the extra money?
In this review, I’ll compare both side-by-side so you get the full picture before spending the extra money. Including:
- The key upgrades that I think make the 35 a better product for runners, cyclists, and indoor/outdoor athletes
- Who the 25 is for and who the 35 is for
- A brief overview of each product
- A side-by-side features breakdown so you get a feel for the look, design, usability, and comfort before buying
Ready to get an awesome sports watch at a discount?
Forerunner 25 vs Forerunner 35: What’s the Difference?
The Garmin Forerunner 35 is the next step up in GPS running watches.
It has everything that I loved about the Forerunner 25 - price, simplicity, comfort, accurate run tracking - plus a few key upgrades that I always felt the 25 was lacking.
Key upgrades in the 35:
- Built-in heart rate monitor (HRM): Hands down the biggest improvement. The 35 has 3 built-in optical heart rate sensors right on the watch (you still need a Garmin ANT+ heart rate monitor though).
- Better UX: The Forerunner series has the best UX in my opinion, since it’s so simple. That’s what you want in a watch, right? But the 35 allows you to view 3 metrics at once instead of 2, which is a complete game changer during runs - at least for me. I’ll explain further down below.
- Clearer screen: The 35’s screen is noticeably sharper. You can clearly see time, distance, and any other metric at a quick glance (even with all that burning sweat in your eye). The 25’s is great too, but the 35 is a moderate step up.
- Music controls: Imagine being able to pause, replay, or skip mid run at the click of a button? It’s such a breath of fresh air. Now you aren’t stuck listening to overplayed songs that you’re too lazy to remove from your playlist.
- More activities: Now you can capture walking, cycling, and running plus it includes interval training. It’s a good upgrade for Crosfit-ers, weightlifters, cyclists, and other indoor athletes. The 25 only captures running.
Garmin has always been good at making small, incremental upgrades that improve your life as a runner, but this time the jump is pretty noticeable.
Is there any downside to upgrading to the 35?
Aside from spending more money, the only clear downside to the Forerunner 35 is the shorter battery life.
All the extra features drain the battery a lot faster.
Watch Mode: 9 days.
Training Mode: 13 hours.
For comparison, the 25’s battery could last up to 10 weeks (though on 10 hours in training mode).
Forerunner 35 vs. Forerunner 25: Bottom Line
Both are excellent entry-level running watches that accurately track basic stats and encourage you to keep beating your best.
However, the 35 is such a clear upgrade that I can’t recommend the 25 to anyone unless you’re on a super tight budget and want to buy a cheap refurbished 25.
For me, the music skipping feature is enough to pay the extra money. Throw in the heart rate monitor, screen, and extra activities, and it’s not a fair comparison anymore.
Imagine if someone offered you an iPhone 12 for just a few more dollars than the iPhone 5. That’s pretty much the difference between the 35 and 25.
Pros and Cons
- Very simple to use
- Long battery life
- No HRM
- Only running
- No music controls
- Only shows 2 metrics
- Built-in HRM
- Compatible with more software/devices
- Music controls (skip, pause, etc.)
- Sharper screen
- Displays more metrics for a clearer picture of your current status
- More expensive
- Shorter battery life in watch mode
The Garmin Forerunner 25 is a no-frills, run-only watch ideal for beginners, budget shoppers, or anyone who’s only looking for a very affordable - but basic - watch. You will get the basic - nothing more. Nothing less.
The 128 x 128 pixel screen (black and white color) accurately displays metrics like distance, calories, and time so you get a more accurate picture of your workout intensity on the road. And everything is controlled by the 4 buttons on the watch (no touch screen).
Once you sign up for an account with Garmin, just enter your height, weight, and age, and you’re set to start tracking everything you need for an efficient run.
The Forerunner 25 was THE LOW-COST watch for new runners for a long stretch. Pretty much everyone I knew was asking me “hey, is it worth to drop the $$$ for the Forerunner 25?”.
It definitely was...until Garmin released yet another upgrade a few years later.
Check the complete specifications of Forerunner 25 on Garmin's website.
Like I said before, the Forerunner 35 is the next logical step in the evolution of low-cost running watches.
It’s basically the Forerunner 25 PLUS all the stuff the 25 was missing that more hardcore runners wanted.
Garmin added more sport profiles, a built-in heart rate monitor, and a bunch of other key upgrades
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a basic running watch without luxurious features, but for the cost the value is incredible. It’s actually not even close to the best Garmin watch. It’s just the best affordable one.
Plus you can sync it with upgrades like a chest strap or cycling speed sensor. That’s the cool thing about the 35 - it’s got all the basics plus it grows with you as you improve.
I know I listed them before but here are a few of my favorite features:
- Heart rate monitor
- Interval training
- Location tracking (so you stay safe)
- Music skipping
- Auto and manual lap
- VO2 Max (for serious athletes)
Check the manual of Forerunner 35 here.
Forerunner 25 vs. Forerunner 35: Side-By-Side Comparison
After using both of these watches extensively, I want to give you my opinion of actually using them. Since I assume you actually want to put one of them on and work out rather than read my ramblings all day.
Both watches are stupidly easy to set up and use.
They have the same 4-button layout that allows you to scroll through metrics/options/menus and all that jazz.
There’s normally a correlation between features and UX. The more features the harder the watch is to use.
The 35 manages to upgrade on the 25 without that hassle though. Syncing it up with Garmin is super easy and once you set up your profile once you’re good to go.
Both are so easy to use I don’t feel the need to explain more. Just click the buttons.
Actually Running With the Watch on
I give the 35 the clear edge in this metric.
Both are comfortable, but the 35 is more convenient.
The 25 only displays two metrics at once, so if you want to view others you’ve actually got to click a button, then cycle back to view time and distance (or whichever metric you choose).
This doesn’t sound like much, but you will start to get super annoyed while running. Imagine you’re jogging on a busy street and instead of keeping your eyes focused on the run ahead, you’re constantly spending an extra few seconds clicking buttons and staring at the screen. It all adds up.
With the 35, you get time, distance, and heart rate zone right on the same screen, so you don’t have to constantly cycle back and forth. I noticed the difference immediately. It’s so much more convenient.
This is the only real blotch on the Forerunner’s resume in my opinion. Keep it mind that they’re supposed to be budget watches, so you shouldn’t expect NASA-level tracking anyway.
Both the 25 and 35 are small watches, meaning they have smaller GPS attenae. Neither support GLONASS (the high-end GPS tracking you find in luxury watches). Basically, what this means for you is that you’ll need to give both watches about a 5% cushion either way. So if it says you traveled 2 kilometers, you may have traveled 100 meters more or less. Not a big deal.
Design and Comfort
The 35’s design is a big step up front he 25’s. Both are small and comfortable, meaning they won’t burn or smother your wrist, and they’ll fit under almost every type of jacket or sportswear.
The only real bummer is the 4-button system is a bit annoying after a while. Touch screens are way better - but they also way more expensive. The more detailed screen on the 35 is a big advantage by the way. Worth the money.
Garmin Forerunner 25 vs. Garmin Forerunner 35: Final Verdict
In the end, both watches are a steal at the price. They’re basic, entry-level running watches with mostly basic features, but it’s plenty to get you started at a very fair price.
As a more serious runner, I have to recommend the 35 for the key upgrades that I’ve mentioned. Now that they’re both so close in price, I see no reason to get the 25 unless you’re on a super tight budget.
If you get the 25, you’re missing out on so much value that will improve your workout and keep you motivated to stay on track and hit the road every day. Think of all the agony you’ll go through with your music or the limitations on your workout programs that will come from buying a watch that only supports running.
I hate to sound super biased, but the 35 is just flat out better and it’s not that much more expensive.
Totally worth the upgrade!