Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the new Garmin watches

We compare the two feature-packed sports watches
Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935

If you've got big money to spend on a sports watch right now, the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Forerunner 935 are two of the best options you can currently get your hands on.

We scored both Garmin watches highly in their respective reviews as the company continues to churn out more sports-focused wearables that blend the best of sports tracking with smartwatch-esque features to help rival the likes of the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S3 and the legion of Android Wear watches.

Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 3

If you're trying to pick between the two watches and don't know which one is going to be a better fit for you, we're to help. We've compared the key features, pricing and design differences to help you decide between the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Forerunner 935.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Design

Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the new Garmin watches

Garmin's Fenix watches are built for outdoor adventurers, which has meant donning big, bulky devices in the past. Thankfully, things have changed for the Fenix 5. The 47mm watch still has that signature stainless steel bezel with screws prominently on display, but it's actually smaller than its predecessor the Fenix 3. Some might still find it a bit on the big side, but if you want something better suited to skinnier wrists, the Fenix 5S packs in the same features included in the 5 inside of a smaller 42mm watch body.

Read this: Garmin Fenix 5 tips and tricks

The Forerunner 935 meanwhile is very much built in the mould of previous generation Forerunner smartwatches. It's all plastic with a bezel that's nowhere near as dominating as the one featured on the Fenix 5. At 13.9mm thick, it's slimmer than the Fenix 5 as well and is lighter weighing in at just 49g. Neither are the prettiest or the best looking sports watches you're going to find, but they are both comfortable to wear throughout the day if you're planning to use them as your everyday watch as well.

Both use interchangeable rubber bands, which easily clip out letting you swap in compatible 22m watch straps. You can also jump in the pool or the open water with either, but if you want the extra waterproofing the Fenix 5 ups the resistance to 10ATM (up to 100m) in comparison to the Forerunner 935's 5ATM (up to 50 metres) waterproofing.

Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the big new Garmin watches

In the screen department, you can expect an identical experience with both watches packing 1.2-inch 240 x 240 resolution transflective displays that offer decent sized surroundings to review your data with good visibility in bright sunlight. There's no touchscreen tech here so you're relying on the physical buttons positioned around the edges of the display, but that's no big deal when you realise those sweaty fingers are better suited to pressing buttons than swiping on a touchscreen.

Flip the watches around and you'll also find Garmin's own optical heart rate sensor that is built on the same proprietary hardware but the company does say it has tweaked the algorithms to improve heart rate accuracy. In our testing, we've definitely seen an improvement on the data accuracy front, but we'd still suggest sticking to pairing these watches with one of Garmin's chest straps for the best HR results.

So which one wins on the design front? It really depends on what you value most here. For serious ruggedness, it's the Fenix 5 hands down, but if you want something that's lighter and less bulky to wear all day the Forerunner 935 is the one for us.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Sports tracking, smartwatch features and metrics

Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the new Garmin watches

On the sensor count, it's all even. You'll find GPS and GLONASS for mapping, along with heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope an accelerometer and thermometer. What that means is that these two watches are equally adept for the outdoors for activities like hiking or for when you decide to take the training indoors.

Check this out: Garmin Forerunner 935 tips and tricks

In terms of sports that you can track, there's plenty. The core ones remain running, cycling, swimming and golf, but we're also talking dedicated modes for activities like skiing, paddleboarding and rowing.

You're also getting the same experience on the activity tracking front and additional smartwatch features, so you'll be able to change watch faces, control music and download apps from the Connect IQ store. Both watches benefit from fitness tracker features like step counts that adapt based on the previous day's efforts and automatic sleep monitoring. Garmin's smartwatch features are some of the best in the business, so either of these will do a solid job of keeping you away from your smartphone.

Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the new Garmin watches

The two are inseparable when you compare training and analysis features as well. There's staples like downloadable training plans, virtual racing modes and live tracking support. The big new feature are the Training Effect features for both anaerobic and aerobic workouts, giving you a better indication of ideal recovery time and whether your session was productive one in terms of your current fitness levels.

One thing you are never short of is metrics, whether it's for swimming, cycling or any other outdoor pursuits. For heart rate based data there's HR calories, HR max, recovery time and heart rate variability provided you use a compatible chest strap to carry out the HRV test. For running, you'll be able to see elements like cadence and performance condition. You can also unlock more advanced running metrics via Garmin's new Running Pod, which is compatible with both watches. The small wearable clips onto the waistband of your running gear to deliver metrics including vertical oscillation, ground contact time and balance, stride length (real time) and lactate threshold.

These two watches are evenly matched when you want to track multiple sports and pore over the bucketload of metrics that are waiting for you in the Garmin Connect companion app.


Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battery life performance

Gamin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Battle of the new Garmin watches

If there's one thing you don't have to worry about here, it's getting out that proprietary charger on a regular basis because these Garmin watches really go the distance. Both offer up to 2 weeks battery life in smartwatch mode, up to 23 hours in GPS mode and 60 hours in UltraTrac mode without wrist-based heart rate in use.

That wipes the floor with its closest rivals and puts outdoor smartwatches like the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F20 to shame. We've put the Fenix 5 and the Forerunner 935's battery life abilities to the test and they are two of the best performers we've ever used. That's even when putting the GPS tracking to regular use and taking full advantage of additional features like continuous heart rate monitoring and smartwatch notification support.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Price

The Fenix 5 is the pricier of the two watches and is priced in at $599, which can jump up to $849.99 for the Fenix 5 Sapphire edition. The Forerunner 935 in comparison costs $499.99 but you can also pick up a tri-bundle for $649.99, which includes a black watch face with yellow strap, HRM-Tri, HRM-Swim, and additional straps.

So if you decide for the cheapest versions, the Forerunner 935 does cost less, but ultimately these are both big investments. Think about whether you're going to take full advantage of all those features and whether you could save some money going for a more affordable Forerunner or older Fenix watch.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Forerunner 935: Verdict

So if we had to put our money down on one watch right now, we'd be inclined to still go for the Fenix 5. There's very little to separate the two in the features department, but the extra spend will get you a watch with a more durable and robust design. It also has a little more going for it in the looks department.

But that's not to say that the Forerunner 935 is a seriously inferior watch to this outdoor beast. We're big fans of the slim and light design that packs many of the same features and can deliver that same impressive battery peformance. Bottom line, these are two of the best sports watches you can get your hands on right now. Well played Garmin. Well played.

Got any questions about these two watches? Let us know in the comments section below.


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