It’s worth mentioning from the start that the Forerunner 935 is geared toward runners, cyclists and triathletes, while the Instinct is designed for primarily for outdoor enthusiasts that also enjoy tracking endurance exercises.
To help you decide which watch is better suited to your needs, we’re going to unpack the key similarities and the key differences, with a few choice words at the end if you’re still on the fence.
Now let’s get cracking.
Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner 935 - Key Similarities
Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner 935 - Key Differences
Garmin Instinct vs FR935 - Sports Modes
|Garmin Instinct - Sports Modes||Garmin Forerunner 935 - Sports Modes|
|01) Strength Training||01) Strength Training|
|02) Cardio Training||02) Cardio Training|
|03) Elliptical Training||03) Elliptical Training|
|04) Stair Stepping||04) Stair Stepping|
|05) Indoor Rowing||05) Indoor Rowing|
|06) Yoga||06) Yoga|
|07) Road Running||07) Road Running|
|08) Treadmill Running||08) Treadmill Running|
|09) Indoor Track Running||09) Indoor Track Running|
|10) Skiing||10) Skiing|
|11) Road Cycling||11) Road Cycling|
|12) Indoor Cycling||12) Indoor Cycling|
|13) Pool Swimming||13) Pool Swimming|
|14) Snowboarding||14) Snowboarding|
|15) XC Skiing||15) XC Skiing|
|16) Open Water Swimming||16) Open Water Swimming|
|17) Stand Up Paddleboarding||17) Stand Up Paddleboarding|
|18) Outdoor Rowing||18) Outdoor Rowing|
|19) Floor Climbing||19) Floor Climbing|
|20) Kayaking||20) Kayaking|
|21) Tactical Mode||21) Tactical Mode|
|22) Mountain Biking||22) Mountain Biking|
|23) Trail Running||23) Trail Running|
|24) Golf Mode|
|25) Triathlon Mode|
Features Unique To Garmin Instinct
Military Grade Construction
Not even the mighty Fenix 5 can match the Garmin Instinct in this respect. Simply put, the Garmin Instinct is a built to endure the toughest conditions, and it’s literally MIL-STD-810 approved. That’s the process that products have to go through in order to be classified as ‘Military Spec’.
Long story short, this Instinct is a tough cookie. If you invest in this watch, there’s literally no need to worry about bashing or breaking the unit. It can easily handle extreme physical forces and this one of its biggest selling points.
G-Shock Inspired Design
There’s nothing in the Garmin universe that looks similar to the Instinct. In fact, it’s pretty clear to see that Garmin have drawn inspiration from Casio’s line of outdoor watches, probably to capture some of Casio’s marketshare.
Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan when I first saw the watch, but the more I look at it, the more it grows on me. I actually think it’s more attractive than the Casio equivalents, and the range of colors released in 2019 are pretty awesome.
The best thing at this point is to just show some of these colors in all their glory.
Features Unique To Garmin Forerunner 935
Triathlon Mode - FR935 Only
Even though the Garmin Instinct can track running, cycling and open water swimming, it doesn’t have a triathlon mode.
This is in stark contrast to the Forerunner 935, which is literally built for triathletes.
Naturally, this is a massive win for the Forerunner 935, and probably the biggest difference between these two watches. Ultimately, if you’re harboring thoughts of getting into triathlons, it’s pretty clear that you should opt for the FR935.
Golf Mode - FR935 Only
As a super passionate golfer, this is definitely a deal breaker for me. Garmin’s golf tracking features can literally improve your decision making on the course, and you get automatic tracking of shot distances.
Obviously this benefit only really applies to golfers, but if you do play 18 holes regularly, the Forerunner 935 is one of the best Garmin’s for you to consider. It gives you all of Garmin’s best sports modes, and it’s a lot more affordable than the Forerunner 945 and the Fenix 5 Plus.
Advanced Running Dynamics - FR935 Only
This is another key difference between the Garmin Instinct and the Forerunner 935. The advanced running metrics that Garmin offers are pretty cool if you’re big into running. These are the stats that you can unlock with the FR935.
- Ground Contact Time – 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 – Real time running cadence data
- Stride Length – Real time stride length data
However, there is a slight catch. In order to unlock these metrics, you need invest in one of the following three Garmin Accessories.
Running Power Support - Forerunner 935 Only
This is another key difference between these two watches, and another reason to invest in the Forerunner 935 if take your running seriously.
Long story short, the Forerunner 935 is compatible with all Garmin Running Power accessories (HRM-Run, HRM-Tri, Running Dynamics Pod), and it also works with Stryd and RunScribe (3rd party running power accessories).
This is a pretty important feature for runners that are passionate about wearable technology, and for good reason. Accurate running power is one of the most sought after stats in this game. The Forerunner 935 gives you three avenues to access running power (Garmin/Stryd/RunScribe), whereas the Garmin Instinct does not. It’s that simple.
Color Screen - FR935 Only
This is the last major difference between these two watches. The Garmin Instinct has a black and white screen, while the Forerunner 935 has a color screen.
Both watches rely exclusively on buttons to interact with the watch, and this is actually a good thing. Touchscreens can often cause more problems than they solve with serious fitness devices, especially during exercise. Fortunately this isn’t something you have to worry about with the Instinct or the FR935.
So which one should you buy?
It should be pretty clear that I’m a fan of both watches. From a Garmin technology perspective, they both hit the sweet spot in terms of price, value and features. However, you probably want something a bit more clear cut to help you decide.
The points below should help:
If you're a runner...
If you're a triathlete...
You also have to go with the Forerunner 935. It’s one of the best triathlon watches that has ever been made. Also, the Instinct lacks a triathlon mode, so it obviously doesn’t make sense for triathletes.
If you play golf...
Another no brainer. If you play golf, you have to go with the FR935. Garmin’s golf tracking features are legitimately awesome, but they can only be found in a limited number of watches. The Forerunner 935 is one of them.
If you enjoy the great outdoors
This is where the Instinct really comes into its own. It can track all major outdoor sports, it has a ridiculously robust frame, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Forerunner 935. If you’re passionate camping, hiking, trail running and mountain biking, the Garmin Instinct will be a very good match for your needs.