Garmin Forerunner 235 vs Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Which Is Best for You?

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Which Is Best for You?

The Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Garmin Forerunner 735XT are both excellent GPS watches. 

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. 

Let’s begin.

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.

Entry Level Running Watches Mid Level Running Watches Advanced Level Running Watches
Foreunner 35 Foreruner 235 Forerunner 630
Forerunner 45 Forerunner 245 Forerunner 645

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.

Key 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.

Price

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. 
Of the stats listed above, focusing on vertical oscillation and vertical ratio specifically can literally make you a more efficient runner. Naturally it’s hard to improve these stats if you can’t measure them, so this is a big win for the FR735XT.

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). 

  1. Garmin HRM-Run (Chest Strap) or
  2. Garmin HRM-Tri (Chest Strap) or
  3. Garmin Advance Running Dynamics Pod (Small clip-on accessory)

Key Similarities - Forerunner 235 vs Forerunner 735XT

FR235

FR735

GPS + GLONASS

Wrist-Based HRM

24/7 Activity Tracking

Sleep Tracking

Indoor + Outdoor Running

Indoor + Outdoor Cycling

Cardio Mode for Gym

Waterproof

Bluetooth and ANT+ Connectivity

Stryd & RunScribe Compatible

Barometric Altimeter

Garmin Running Power

Key Differences - FR235 vs FR735XT

FR235

FR735

Indoor Swimming

Open Water Swimming

Triathlon Mode

Advanced Running Dynamics

Standard Battery Life

Up to 9 Days

Up to 11 Days

GPS Battery Life

Up to 11 Hours

Up to 14 Hours

Weight

42g

44g

Price

Less Expensive

More Expensive

Final Thoughts

The Forerunner 735XT smashes the Forerunner 235 in terms total features and value for money… and it’s not even that much more expensive.

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.

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