Update: Compare the Forerunner 35 against the new Forerunner 45 in my latest post.
Looking for a value for money GPS watch but not sure which one to buy? With the release of the Garmin Forerunner 35, on wrist heart tracking is now available on a Garmin for less than ever. But is it worth it? And do a few extra features make it a worthwhile upgrade over the low-end Forerunner 25? Here’s my comparison of the two GPS wearables.
On Wrist Heart Rate tracking
The Forerunner 35 measures your pulse directly from your wrist using Garmin’s Elevate tech located on the back of the watch. Three green lights shine into your wrist to measure your blood flow and calculate your heart rate. Compared to wearing a more traditional HR monitor around your chest, its comfort and convenience is a huge plus which encourages users to collect data on every run, rather than only select workouts.
The FR 35 measures your pulse around the clock, even when not exercising, meaning you’ll automatically log your resting heart rate throughout the day. I doubt anyone would wear a chest strap every day!
The on-wrist pulse tracking technology has already featured in many of Garmin’s more premium devices; Vivoactive HR, Fenix 3 HR, the Forerunner 235 and 735 models. With RRPs ranging from $250 upwards to $500 the existing models aren’t cheap. The Forerunner 35 gives you this tech at a sub $200 price tag, making it Garmin’s most affordable device with this functionality included
Though the Forerunner 25 doesn’t arrive with heart rate tracking it is compatible with a chest strap heart rate monitor which you can connect wirelessly over ANT+. This would only measure your heart rate during workouts and not continuously like the FR25 does.
Intensity Minutes on the FR 35
With Heart Rate tracking included, the FR 35 is capable of recognising your body’s reaction to the exercise you’re undertaking. Enter Intensity Minutes; a metric designed to help you reach the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.
With two levels of activity, moderate and vigorous, how quickly you reach your goal depends on how intense your exercise is. Moderate minutes can be achieved through brisk walking. Vigorous minutes are worth double points, and are achieved with activities like running; you could reach your Intensity Minute target with one 75 minute run if you wanted to.
Your weekly total will often include a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The tracking is automated as you don’t even have to start your exercise stopwatch to add towards your total; as long as your pulse is elevated over at least 10 minutes at a time, it should rack up the minutes towards your weekly target.
Though Garmin devices don’t have to feature heart rate tracking to track Intensity Minutes (Vivofit 3 can track moderate Intensity Minutes), the Garmin FR 25 doesn’t include this functionality.
As a regular wearer of the Vivoactive range, I’m a big fan of the sports profiles which are like mini-apps where you select the sport you’re about to do and it’ll collect relevant metrics. It’ll also help label it as the correct sport when you upload to the Garmin Connect app.
Ok the Forerunner 35 won’t give you the same diversity of sports (like Skiing or Stand Up Paddleboarding!) but it does provide a streamline selection of core activities.
The bread and butter of any Forerunner device. Use of GPS to track distance when running outside.
An option for when you’re on the treadmill or an indoor track. Won’t use GPS but can guestimate your distance by counting your steps. (Note – edit stride length in Garmin Connect app for greater accuracy)
Whether you’re doing a Couch to 5k or you’re getting back into running after a period of injury, an interval mix of running and walking splits is great for upping your running activity.
I know many runners who also engage in the occasional bike ride. Tends to give you 5 Mile splits instead of 1 mile like you would with a run. Also allows you to distinguish your running personal records from your cycling. Trust me, most Strava runners hate it when a cyclist steals all their KOM records because they haven’t labelled up their sport correctly.
A bucket to throw in any other activity you do where you might still need a stop watch. Use this mode for your gym workouts, circuit training and team sports.
The Forerunner 25 isn’t as sophisticated with sports profiles but does still cater for running both indoors and outside as well as walk/run functionality.
Vibration Alerts on the Forerunner 35
The inclusion of a little vibration motor inside a Forerunner watch makes so much sense. Though my experience is with other Forerunner models, having this feature in the FR35 is especially useful when:
- When out running, a vibrate on the wrist can alert you of mile splits. If you like to run with headphones plugged in, it’s a great way to notify you that you’re on pace.
- When you’re being really lazy, both the FR 25 and FR 35 build up a Move Alert bar to remind you to walk around. On the Forerunner 35, this’ll vibrate on your wrist and is difficult to miss.
With no vibration functionality on the Forerunner 25, you’re at the mercy of hearing a beep for these alerts.
Fresher Design on the FR 35
Whilst both models provide a four buttoned watch at their core, the new look of the FR35 loses the bulk which can be seen around the edges of the FR25. It’s a much more aesthetic design which I can imagine users will be more willing to wear outside of their running activities; a critical factor for tracking those daily step goals, sleep, and heart rate metrics more effectively.
Both models give you plenty of choice when it comes to colours, with the Forerunner 25 available in Purple, Pink, Blue and Black, whereas the Forerunner 35 can be picked up in Black, White, Frost Blue, or Limelight variations.
Garmin FR25 is still cheaper in price
At recommended retail prices there’s only a $30 difference between the $199 Forerunner 35 and the $169 Forerunner 25. With the FR25 being an older release you may be able to find this around the $140 mark, that’s around 30% cheaper than the newer FR35.
What’s the same?
Though I’ve explained the key differences in greater detail, the FR35 and FR25 watches share plenty of common ground between them. Here’s what you can find on both watches.
- Built in GPS
- Run/Walk mode
- Indoor Running Mode
- Auto Pause
- Auto Lap
- Personal Records
- Virtual Pacer
- Heart rate-based calorie computation
- Calculates Calories Burned
- Customisable Screen
- Connected Features
- Step Counter
- Auto Goal
- Move bar
- Sleep monitoring
Garmin Forerunner 25 vs Forerunner 35 – Final Thoughts
Both are watches designed with runners in mind. If you’re only looking for a watch to wear whilst you’re out jogging the cheaper FR25 may offer a better value for money option.
That said, if you are interested in tracking your heart rate data on every run, the Forerunner 35 will let you do this at a much more affordable price compared to other Garmin devices. I would also recommend the FR35 if you plan to wear it beyond running, as it’s more aesthetic design, continuous heart rate tracking and Intensity Minutes, provides extra benefits you’ll get value from using.