When I was asked to test the new Garmin Forerunner 735XT for a couple of months I jumped at the chance. It fell perfectly with the beginning of my journey into triathlon and as I own a VivoActive HR and a forerunner 610 personally neither of these were up to the new challenge completely.
The Garmin team sent me the 735XT Triathlon bundle to test which alongside the watch it came with a Swim and Triathlon heart rate monitor bands. I had tried using HRM bands in the pool before and found them not to work very well so I was intrigued to see how it faired. I have to say that the team at Garmin have got the box perfect, it’s sleek and looks desirable and not a huge deal of packaging witch is a great thing too. With this aside it was the watch I was more interested in!
I like that Garmin’s come with some charge so if you are like me you can put it straight on the moment you get it out the package, it was easy to sync to Garmin Connect and within minutes I had switched to this as my activity tracker too and all my data had been shared with the watch. I did charge the unit at bed time to make sure I began the next day with a full charge.
My first impressions were how sleek it was. Looking more like the other round faced forerunners rather than the Fenix I felt this was a great design point as it would be a better size to wear daily and more importantly it had less bulk when it came to removing a wetsuit. They have removed the touch screen facility which I think is a good idea in a sports watch as I regularity ‘turn off’ 610 when out running.
They seem to have redesigned the strap since the 610 model to a much simpler, more robust strap so this will last much better. I have used the watch for 3 months everyday wearing 24/7 unless charging it. I have had no discomfort, irritation or issues. I’m a little clumsy and heavy handed and the watch still looks like new!
Quickly scrolling through the options the main new features not seen on other Garmin’s I have had to date were VO2 max predictions, Recovery Time feedback, Stride height, length and count as well as many other measurements that i don’t understand! It also had all the usual feedback fields that you expect from Garmin. The main plus point for this watch was the Triathlon setting in the activity list. The list of activities that you can track are endless, with activities like Paddle Boarding and golf to mention 2. You can download more via the IQ website too.
Connecting to GPS is super quick. I have lost the need to do the connecting to GPS dance when starting a session, the connection happens within seconds which is great off to how it used to be with the old GPS watch’s. I also notice the speed it took for it to sync with Garmin Connect. Now I have sent t back and I have returned to using my VivoActive HR I have realised how much quicker it was to sync! Battery life o the 735XT is good with it needing a charge roughly every 5 days with me wearing it constantly taking writs HRM data and training at least for 4 sessions a week. The charging clip has been changed once more but is easy to use and secure, gone of the days of it being knocked and not charging!
The Triathlon setting is a great idea and I found to work well. In a nutshell when it is in Triathlon mode when you hit go it will track an open water swim, when you push the back button it goes into ‘transition mode’ then hit it again it begins cycle tracking, then transition on the next press before moving to run mode on the last. This was great for my first race as I could see using the Tri HRM strap how much effort I was putting in and get good feedback on each part of the race. The results were almost spot on with the race timing too!
Now to the HRM Straps! As mentioned earlier they sent the Tri bundle with 2 straps a blue swim strap and a black tri strap (blue unit on front of the strap). The watch naturally finds each band without asking it to and downloads data at the end of a session quickly and easily. I have never had much luck with a swim HRM before as I have a dip in my chest from an ice-hockey injury, bands have previously gapped as I have pushed off the wall. The swim band is less stretchy with only a small area that stretches and made from a plastic material which grips the skin better when wet. You need to wear it fairly tight but I found it worked perfectly. Wearing the band also gives you further information as stroke rate, max stroke rate and stroke length.
The reason they send 2 straps is that the normal Tri strap will work for Swim, Bike and Run but needs to be worn under a wetsuit/Trisuit within a swim. Stupidly I never tried the band in the pool under a tri suit to see how effective it was as I think ladies may get away with using this one all of the time under a swimming costume. The days of the standard HRM bands that just reported your heart rate are now dead! The data you can get from these bands is incredible and if you are a serious athlete the information you and you coach can gain will be very helpful.
The inbuilt wrist HRM I have found to be the most accurate to date I have used. It doesn’t need to be worn super tight and will track well even during activity (Not in swimming). I feel Garmin are at the forefront of wrist HRM technology and I have never had an issue.
Just a word of warning I asked the team at Garmin if the bands work with other models, they will but you need to double check there compatibility. It won’t work with the older forerunner watches or the VivoActive HR to my disappointment!
As I got this watch when I was returning from injury I have been doing a lot of indoor sessions I was impressed at how easy it was to sync the watch to record data from doth the Watt Bikes and Stages indoor bikes in my local gym. You can choose what data is recorded also. The indoor pool setting was very accurate too and easy to switch between pool lengths as regularly switch between a 20m outdoor and 25m indoor pool.
Now the 735XT is not cheap, but if you are looking for a watch for triathlon that you can use as a daily watch. I don’t think you can get anything better. The functionality and data you can get from it will suit everyone from those starting out looking to improve right up to the seasoned athlete doing some Swim Bike and Run. If the Tri bundle is too expensive in 1 hit you can buy the straps separately, this will end up being more expensive in the long run but it would spread the cost. I was really gutted to have to end it back to them and ended up having it for 3 months rather than the 1 that had been agreed and still felt gutted when I took it to the post office! I’m going to have to start saving up to buy one!