Garmin Forerunner 35 first look: A feature-packed running watch on a budget

IFA 2016: It's not much of a looker, but it covers the run tracking bases
Garmin Forerunner 35 first look

With the Forerunner 630 serving up advanced running metrics at the top end of the Garmin GPS running watch family, the Forerunner 35 (natural successor to the Forerunner 25), sits firmly at the bottom.

But there's enough on board to keep even the most serious runners satisfied. Along with built-in GPS, there's Garmin's Elevate optical heart rate monitor for 24/7 tracking and measuring the intensity of your workouts. You'll get smart notification support as well and all day activity and sleep tracking.

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Where you do have to make compromises is on the basic running data it records (pace, distance and time), lack of Connect IQ support and some missing sport modes that's wrapped up in a not so pretty design.

It looks a lot like last year's Vivoactive with the similarly square bezel winning the battle for space with a 0.93-inch 128 x 128 screen. It's not particularly high res, and is a haven for fingerprint smudges so you'll need to regularly give it a wipe down.

Surrounding the display are a set of four physical buttons, and the most interesting addition here is the inclusion of a dedicated music control button. Unsurprisingly, there's no storage to stream music from the watch, but you can control music playback from your phone.

As far as the straps are concerned, you've got your pick of black, green, blue and white options. They're all made from the same silicon rubber we've seen crop up on Garmin watches so should be light and comfortable enough to wear all day or during a strenuous workout.

If you want to take it for a dip, the 5ATM water resistance rating means you can go swimming with it up to 50 metres depth. Unfortunately, you don't get the swim tracking mode included on the Vivoactive HR or more expensive Garmin watches.

Speaking of sport profiles, it will of course track running as well as indoor running (using the on board accelerometer), cycling when paired with additional sensors, cardio and walking. All of that data feeds into the Garmin Connect companion smartphone app but as we've already mentioned, you'll have to live without the Connect IQ support to add additional data fields, watch faces or apps. That's not going to be a deal breaker for most though.

Another reason to be impressed with the Forerunner 35 is battery life. In fitness tracking mode, it's an impressive 9 days, which is a strong showing while 13 hours of tracked running is a vast improvement on what the Forerunner 25 can offer.

Early verdict

If you own a Forerunner 25, there's a lot of reasons here that might convince you to make the upgrade to the Forerunner 35. You've now got the heart rate monitoring, improved battery life, smartwatch-style features and it also doubles as a fitness tracker. At $199.99 though, it's an entry level running watch that's crept up in price and costs the same as the Vivosmart HR+ fitness tracker, which offers many of the same features in a much sleeker design. If a basic running watch with no frills is something you're looking for, there's every chance the Forerunner 35 will appeal.

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