But choosing the watch that’s best suited to you can be a bit tricky.
To help you make a confident decision, this guide highlights all the main differences between the FR235 and the FR735XT. It also breaks down all the similarities, so you understand the strengths that both of them share.
Who is the Forerunner 235 meant for?
This one is simple. The Forerunner 235 is designed primarily for runners.
It’s one of several running specific watches that Garmin offers, and it can be classified as their ‘mid-level’ GPS running watch.
The simple table below should make it clear where it fits in the Garmin product family.
As you can see, the Forerunner 235 slots nicely into the middle of the pack. The big advantage of this is that you get pretty good value for money. It hits the sweet spot in terms of price and features.
Who is the Forerunner 735XT meant for?
This one is also easy. The Forerunner 735XT is designed primarily for triathletes.
It’s a fully fledged multisport GPS triathlon watch, that definitely edges the FR235 in terms of total features.
Ultimately, the 735XT is the more accomplished watch, and it caters to a broader range of athletes than the FR235.
Now that we have a good understanding of who these watches are designed for, let’s unpack the most important differences.
Indoor Swimming & Open Water Swimming - FR735XT Only
This is one of the biggest differences between the 235 and the 735XT.
While the FR735XT gives you indoor swimming and open water swimming, the FR235 doesn’t give you either option.
This isn’t necessarily the end of the world for runners, but if you enjoy swimming or compete in triathlons, it’s a game changer.
Enhanced Battery Life - FR735XT
In this department, the FR735XT edges the FR235. The bullet points below make this super clear:
- FR235 Standard Battery Life – Up to 9 days
- FR235 GPS Battery Life – Up to 11 hours
- FR735XT Standard Battery Life – Up to 11 days
- FR735XT GPS Battery Life – Up to 14 hours
So it’s the GPS battery life where the 735XT is significantly better than the FR235.
With that being said, the battery life in the Forerunner 235 is still perfectly acceptable for must runners, whether you enjoy half-marathons, full marathons or ultra marathons.
Obviously the price is different for these two watches. The Forerunner 235 is more affordable than the Forerunner 735.
However, I would argue that the FR735XT is actually better value for money.
The extra $70 or so dollars that you spend on the 735 opens up powerful features and functions, and basically future proofs your purchase. You know that 2 years down the line, the FR735XT will still be able to track all your endurance activities, if you expand into swimming or triathlons, and it supports Garmin’s advanced running dynamics if you get seriously deep into improving your running form.
Triathlon Mode - FR735XT Only
We’ve already cover this, but it’s worth emphasizing.
The 735 allows you to track running, swimming and cycling seamlessly. You literally only have to push one button to switch between each sport.
This is a massive win for the FR735XT in this particular product battle.
Advance Running Dynamics - FR735XT Only
For passionate runners, this is probably the biggest difference between the Forerunner 235 and the FR735XT.
Simply put, the FR735 supports advance running dynamics, while the Forerunner 235 does not. Naturally this could be a deal breaker for people that want to unlock the following advanced running stats:
- Ground Contact Time – The time your foot spends on the ground with each stride.
- Ground Contact Balance – Symmetry between left and right foot.
- Vertical Oscillation – degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion.
- Vertical Ratio – The cost-benefit ratio with stride length.
- Cadence – Displayed in real time on your device.
- Stride Length – Displayed in real time on your device.
There is just one small catch however. In order to unlock these stats, you need to invest in one of the following 3 Garmin accessories (all of them are obviously compatible with the 735XT).
Key Similarities - Forerunner 235 vs Forerunner 735XT
Key Differences - FR235 vs FR735XT
If it were my money, and I had to choose today, I would side with the 735XT. For less than a hundred bucks extra you get:
- Indoor Swimming
- Open Water Swimming
- Triathlon Mode
- Enhanced Battery Life
- Advanced Running Dynamics Support
The Final Word: The Forerunner 735XT is the better watch. It’s as simple as that.