For the past year and a half I have been the highly satisfied owner of a Garmin Fr735XT watch. Previous to this I used a Fr225 and before this an Fr620. Both of these predecessors were capable devices. The 225 in particular was a reliable and robust watch that did what you asked of it every time and kept me stress free for more than a year. The 735 was the first time that I opted for a multi-sport watch. What initially prompted me to get it was that back then Stryd did not yet have a Connect IQ app and I need to record the power numbers as if they were from a bike using a bike power profile. To have a bike power profile I need a multi-sport watch. So I was unsurprisingly relieved when the app was later released and power data recording become a much smoother affair.
Today I record workouts using a mix of methods. Sometimes through the Stryd IQ app, sometimes using the standard outdoor run mode with GPS and sometimes with indoor run mode using just the accelerometer. Like a lot of things with Garmin watches this takes a bit of learning when you first start out. Not all the menu navigating is logical or intuitive. But once you learn the way it works on that particular watch it becomes really quick and easy.
So what do I love about the 735? Well, I love the fact that its extremely light on the wrist and that its a small unit. The 225 was a bulky mess on the wrist and even the current 230 and 235 have large displays. Personally I like to have a small, light watch that I forgot immediately that I even have it on (I’m not one for checking the watch when running. I prefer to hit start and then not look at it until the end). I much prefer the button pressing navigation. Using the 620 used to stress me out continuously as the touch screen was awkward and clumsy and quite slow. Although it sounds quite frivolous and materialistic, I really love having a tonne of functions on tap whenever I might need them. Functions like a metronome, an on-the-fly interval session builder, access to IQ apps, access to other sport/activity modes, instant heart rate feedback off the wrist and more. Although the 735 was not the first Garmin watch to have the wrist based heart rate it was the first to have Garmin’s own monitor that wasn’t bulky and heavy. I absolutely hated chest straps so this for me was an absolute must. the 735XT can also incorporate running dynamics data (basic metrics of your gait) from an optional external sensor if needed and can display this data in a host of data field layouts that you can custom configure.
light and small with a tonne of functions
Probably the biggest area to comment on when it comes to any wearable technology like watches is the reliability of the measurements. There are tonne of options out there besides Garmin and they will all perform the basics and give you some suite of data in return without breaking or falling apart. So the question then becomes, is all of the data actually reliable? Having used 3 735’s in the past year (2 of my own and 1 Garmin test watch) I can say this. The gps has been very accurate and responsive for me. One thing I love is when a watch picks up the gps signal quickly whilst I’m lacing my shoes and about to start a run. My first 735 was a dud. The gps never worked properly. So I sent it back and got a free replacement. Second time around it has worked beautifully every time. The heart rate monitor is very good but not perfect. There are still quite often sections of data recorded that are just plain garbage. I don’t know what heart rate is being measured at that time but its definitely not from my body . However this is most often during the warm-up when I’m less concerned about the numbers. Overall I generally still get a lot of high quality heart rate data back that is easily good enough to work with. Elevation and pace data are generally robust. Certainly the data I see loaded up to Connect or Training Peaks looks good to me.
accurate and responsive gps
I should probably add that there are some other intriguing functions on the watch, similar to other watches of this generation and category, designed to help you train ‘smarter’. I will pick on just 3 of these very briefly here. The VO2 max calculator. Basically a waste of time. After a year of QC’ing the numbers with dozens of athletes, I’ve found its best to ignore this number. This is also used as input for an estimated race time predictor. I would also take these numbers with a pinch of salt too. The recovery period calculator. Also a waste of time. Unfortunately turning a watch into a coach is not a good idea. I absolutely ignore this number whenever it pops up after a workout is completed. And finally the workout comparison metric. A curious display that appears early on in a run to tell you if you are ahead or behind compared to previous runs. Essentially a waste of time for most workouts bar the odd exception. If this function is useful to you then you probably aren’t training very smartly at all. If you glance at and feel the need to curse at it then you are probably training the right way.
So do I think the 735 is the ultimate running watch? No, not quite. Do I think its worthy of a purchase? Yes. It is a great all round device, that’s reliable, small, light and gives you a tonne of features in one watch. And with the IQ app function also opens you up to expanding the capability even more. As a final note I should also add that the 14 hour battery life (that I’ve tested to the limit when in normal gps mode) still impresses me as a mere tech layman and the speed at which the battery recharges also makes my life a lot more chilled.