Friday, May 26, 2017

Garmin 735XT Athlete Watch Review

Subtitle: More Watch than most Athletes will ever need

This is a review and overview of the Garmin 735 XT fitness watch. I'm going to point to my experiences with the watch and also give a quick summary overview of the Sports watch marketplace.

Why Garmin?
Most Athletes or sports people will already be using a fitness watch.  So the reason to go Garmin today is usually because you are already embedded into their ecosystem.

In the early days, and I'm talking 20 plus years ago; Garmin was more the choice of the US military and as portable GPS evolved with early mapping in the late 1990's that of the hiker/ explorer  community too.

Today my Garmin 735 XT watch represents the culmination of years of fine tweaking and enhancement of the GPS sports watch. Including

 - A single web interface where you can look at your individual run/cycle/ other statistics, and dive in for a deeper view of each event

- A watch that contains so many functions and can support so many sports, for example Stand Up Paddle (SUP),  Running, Cycling, Hiking, Cross Country Skiing, Triathlon etcetera you will be totally blown away

- It recharges so fast that after an activity, when I of course head to the shower, by the time I'm out, dried and changed, the battery is normally back to 100%.  Simply astonishing

- Totally customisable screens for each activity.  Example: I can decide on my running activity how many screens to show, how many items on each screen, and what they are.

- Support for Routes.  Means I can simply take a .gpx file downloaded for a race route  and drag it onto the filesystem of the watch when connected to my PC.  Then its a route I can use

- Accuracy: This watch actually records things correctly.  See my Apple Watch critique below

- Tough: Generally dustproof, reliable, tough and spare straps are available from Garmin or ebay

- Integrated HRM.  No need for that chest strap and Heart Rate Monitoring is on 24x7 so you can look at your metrics outside of any activity as well as within

- Activity Monitoring: This measures steps and sleeping and the type of sleeping.  Now you don't need to wear a separate fitness tracker

- Light: At 41 grams, this is a Sports watch, with upto a 12 hour activity life, with GPS and Heart Rate Monitoring.  Incredible.

Many Functions

The definitive review is from DC Rainmaker of course and I've extracted some specs for the 735XT below

It is really doubtful that you will use even a fraction of these facilities!

DCR 735 XT review

Applications, Data Fields, Watch Faces and Widgets
The 735XT supports the modern, 2017 Garmin Smartwatch infrastructure.

Running is a builtin Garmin Application.  Garmin has a programming interface so developers can write alternative apps e.g. Find My Car, or Stopwatch

Data Fields

Example: The Running app has screen containing data fields from Garmin like Time, Distance.   You can add a data field from a developer then use it in any application.

Watch Faces
Replacement Watch Faces used when in watch mode.  A watch face is a special example of a Widget in that it runs at the top level of the watch, outside of any specific activity application like running.

Top level applications that run concurrently with the main Clock application.  You can scroll thru your installed widgets

Note that the above photos represent a small selection of the available items, click on the links for the full listing.

Some Photos

So it is just a watch, but to me one hell of a watch

Garmin Alternatives

- For lesser money you can choose a more restricted Garmin Forerunner 230  This will allow you to record runs and hikes but you can't customise the screens so well and there is no routing  (so you can't download a race course .gpx file and use this whilst in a trail race for example to stop you getting lost).   So it's a more basic product, looking very similar, with a lower price tag.

- Garmin Fenix 5 in its many variants S, normal and X sizes, is a more capable product.  But at a higher price point and a much larger weight from 67 to 98 grams.  To Marcus a heavy Sports watch is irritating, it does not sit comfortably and the Fenix 5 ranges are also thicker, so if you wear them in the office they might not actually fit under a Business shirt cuff.   I'd really try it out before you buy!

- Garmin 935.  Better than the 735 XT in every way.   But it's slightly fatter and more expensive.   If you don't need the longer battery life for a race that exceeds 12 hours then the business case is not so strong.   However if money is no object then by all means knock yourself out, the 935 is actually superior.

Please not the Apple Watch
If ever you see an athlete competing using an Apple watch, then I suggest it says
a) Apple is paying me to wear this watch
b) I'm really a bit of an amateur or a professional who is basically an idiot

Apple had the opportunity to completely wipe out the professional GPS Smartwatch market.  It could so easily have buried Garmin, Suunto, TomTom but by releasing a product who sports tracking capabilities were less than mediocre it is practically a laughing stock for athletes, well, and not exactly on top of its game in others either.

Apple Watch Series 2 for Athletes

To Summarise
The Garmin 735 XT is one hell of a GPS smartwatch.  For races of less than 10 hours it works fantastically.  It can serve many different functions not just running, swimming, cycling, but so many more.  It's tough and at only 41 grams you won't even notice it on your wrist.  Finally it tracks your steps and sleeping so you don't need a separate activity monitor.