Garmin 735 XT Review

26 Apr , 2017 Reviews,Sports,Technology

Garmin 735 XT Review

SUMMARY

Garmin 735XTWhen Garmin announced the 735XT I was actually in the process of shopping for a new Fitness watch that could do relatively everything. I had become disenchanted with the Apple Watch Series 1 and its lack of features geared towards hardcore athletes. I was especially disappointed by its lack of reliability when it came to GPS tracking of activities, swim tracking, sleep monitoring, and an inability to export activity data from the default Health app.

I had initially been leaning to towards the Garmin 920XT Triathlon watch but was turned off by its size and generally unappealing aesthetics. I liked the Garmin 730 but it was strictly just a running and cycling watch with no swim features. Then came the 735 XT with the style of the 230 (now 235) and a majority of the features of the 920XT. The key missing features are:

  1. Barometric Altimeter (for counting stairs and pin point elevation accuracy).
  2. Wi-Fi Uploading of workout data.
  3. Snow Sports tracking.

None of these features are a deal breaker for me so I went with the 735 XT and have been very pleased ever since.

DESIGN & FEEL

The watch is surprisingly very lightweight. This is especially important when wearing it while sleeping. I actually found it to be lighter in weight than my series Apple Watch Seriee 1. However, that weight is achieved through a use of low cost plastic and rubber components. It doesn’t feel or look cheap but you know it’s not as versatile in going sports to evening wear as the Apple Watch. Regardless, I have made the 735XT my 24/7 companion fashion and sporting companion. Outside of showering, I have it on all the time. Below are som shots of what the watch looks like on my wrist. I have a pretty small wrist so what you are seeing is about the average watch face to wrist coverage for most people.

Watch on wrist. Watch Face Watch HR Sensors

FEATURES & PERFORMANCE

Activity Tracking

Run, Bike, and Swim profile are available out of the box with the watch. You can add lots of other profiles or create custom ones. I have even created one to track my HIIT workouts that combine treadmill running and strength training. One of my friends created a profile for Yoga, but I think that is a little overkill. A Triathlon mode is available and customizable through the app or Connect Apps. The only thing you can’t really track are snow sports. Which is a surprisingly absent to me.

It’s in the GPS tracking where this watch really excels. There are three different GPS modes available on the watch. The tracking modes are GPS, GPS + GLONASS, and UltraTrac. You can configure a different satellite mode per activity. Without getting into too much detail, these modes are particularly important to athletes tracking through densely packed urban spaces like New Yor where tall buildings throw off GPS data or when traversing around remote woods where coverage maybe spotty. I have included some example GPS tracked maps and metrics per activity.

EXAMPLE DATA
Run Bike
Run GPSRun Metrics Bike GPS DataBike Metrics
Swim Sleep
Swim Data Sleep Data

Steps Tracking

The 735XT is more accurate than simply using your Apple Watch or phone because neither do a good job of capturing every step or stride. Primarily, because you do not carry you phone with you at all times and the Apple Watch is useless in non-running or cycling activities. This gap is most noticeable when playing sports like soccer where you take a lot of steps but don’t carry your phone with you. Additionally, you can customize the watch to your height and stride length for more accurate steps counting. I defer to my 735XT for my weekly step count and participate in the Garmin weekly steps contest in the broad community.

Sleep Tracking

This was a surprise feature for me. I didn’t look for it or notice it at first. A friend who also bought the watch told me about it. I love it. I use the data to monitor my freshness for training and likelihood that I will be foggy brained during the day. The Sleep tracking is off by default and enabled in the settings menu. The configuration is pretty simple, consisting of defining your start and stop times for when you normally sleep. Once enabled the watch tracks your deep sleep, tossing and turning, along with your awake periods during that 8-10 hour window. One downside however, is that when you are not wearing the watch it will sometimes inflate the sleep numbers because the watch is resting still on a flat surface. Garmin should have included HR data in with sleep to prevent these inflated numbers.

Connections

This is one of the most connected watches I have ever had. The included Bluetooth connection enables syncing with any smartphone phone that can run the Garmin app. You can receive all of the same notifications you would get on your phone and can even answer or decline calls. You can control music as well. The Strava integration is a nice plus. When running with your watch and phone, you can get notified of live segments you are entering and your own PR if recorded. I don’t really use this feature a lot but I do like that it is available. When you have completed an activity, it can be uploaded through the USB Cable connected to your computer and the Garmin Connect Desktop APP or using the Bluetooth connection with your smartphone to upload. The latter being my preferred approach. Once the data hits Garmin’s site it is then automatically synced to Strava, MapMyFitness and other services.

One of the other connected features of the 735XT is access to the Connected IQ Apps Marketplace. This marketplace works a lot like the Apple App Store. Developers can create apps, watch faces, and widgets. Some of the more notable include an app for hailing an Uber ride (I’m holding out for Lyft), HR Stress Scores, Strava Sufferer Score, and advanced data fields that can calculate your estimated finish time while in the middle of your race. Because there is no touch screen or microphone, there is only so much developers can do to integrate with phone functionality. But I am sure Garmin will eventually introduce a touch screen similar to Apple’s once they can get the battery to work out.

Almost all Garmin devices support the ANT + protocol, the 735XT included. With this connection I can hook up to a number of ancillary devices including the Speed and Cadence sensor on my bike. This type of connectivity is greatly missing on the Apple Watch. Moreover, ANT+ is not going anywhere in the age of Bluetooth. To me, these protocols actually work well together. Bluetooth for phone and data connection, ANT+ for training gear data. The simultaneous dual-mode support in the 735XT is a real win.

Battery

The watches battery is truly exceptional and best in class. The battery can charge from empty to 100% in just over 1 hour. I have found that it lasts me about a week with 5-7 GPS tracked activities and 100,000 steps or more. I really can’t understand how Apple dropped the ball so badly when it came to battery life. To be fair, the Apple Watch battery powers a more rich display and touch capability, but I can tell you that those items are not worth the constant charging required to get the most out of your Apple Watch. You charge using the included USB Sync cable which is proprietary but necessary giving the waterproof features of the watch.

COMPARISONS

I’ll stick to comparing it against the last three sport watches I have owned.

PRODUCT COMPARISON
Category vs. Apple Watch vs. Forerunner 920XT vs. Suunto Ambit
Style: Apple 735XT 735XT
Apps & iOS integration: Apple Tie 735XT
Sports Functions: 735XT 920XT 735XT
Steps & Sleep: 735XT 735XT 735XT
Feel: Apple 735XT 735XT
Battery: 735XT 735XT 735XT
Minus Phone: 735XT 735XT 735XT

VERDICT

I can say without a doubt that the 735 XT is the best fitness and smart watch I have ever owned. Sidenote, I wrote most of this review on my iPhone and iPad while commuting on the MTA and on planes. I’m learning how to blog on the go. Hopefully, this approach leads to more frequent and detailed reviews and posts. I would rate the 735XT a 4.5 out of 5. A few of the missing features keep it from being a perfect watch but I love it all the same.

SUMMARY

Score Pros Cons
4.5 out of 5
  • Multiple connection protocols: ANT+, Bluetooth, GPS, GPS + GLONASS, UltraTrach, Connect IQ, and other Fitness platforms (Strava).
  • No heart tracking during swim workouts.
  • Lightweight feel and slim profile.
  • No snow sports tracking, barometric altimeter.
  • Multiple activity modes: Run, Walk, Bike, Swim, Steps, Sleep, etc.
  • No WiFi or Cellular module for fully independent watch use without a smartphone.
  • Great battery life and quick recharge in about 1 hour.
  • Built-in HR monitor so no more straps across the chest.

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