Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner 935 – Product Comparison

Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner 935 – Product Comparison

This is a product battle between the Garmin Instinct vs Garmin Forerunner 935.

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


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Wrist-based HRM

24/7 Activity Tracking

Sleep Tracking

Stress Tracking

Indoor + Outdoor Running

Indoor + Outdoor Cycling

Indoor + Outdoor Rowing

Pool Swimming

Open Water Swimming

Barometric Altimeter

Compass + Thermometer

Bluetooth and ANT+

Smartphone Notifications

Control Music From Watch

Breadcrumb Navigation

Smartwatch Battery

14 Days

14 Days

Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner 935 - Key Differences


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Military Grade Construction

Colour Screen

Advanced Running Dynamics

Garmin Running Power

3rd Party Running Power

Triathlon Mode

Golf Mode

V02 Max Estimates

Garmin Connect IQ

GPS Battery Life

16 Hours

24 Hours

UltraTrac Battery

40 Hours

60 Hours

Sports/Activity Modes



Garmin Instinct Orange
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Garmin Forerunner 935 Face On
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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.

  1. Garmin HRM-Run – Best for runners who want near perfect heart rate data.
  2. Garmin HRM-Tri – Best choice for triathletes.
  3. Garmin Advanced Running Dynamics Pod – Best choice for people on a tight budget.

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.

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Garmin Forerunner 935 Black
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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...

Definitely the Forerunner 935. It’s one of the best Garmin Running Watches that you can buy. The Garmin Instinct can obviously track runs, but it lacks the advanced running stats and running power support that you will find in the FR935. 

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.

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