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Garmin Forerunner 35: Budget GPS Running Watch

Garmin has unveiled a new running watch, which brings optical heart rate monitoring to the wrist for a wallet –friendly price.

Significantly cheaper than the Forerunner 630 and the Forerunner 235, Garmin still manages to pack in a whole lot of features into the Forerunner 35.

While Garmin's wearables are getting better looking, the watch case strongly resembles the one featured on Garmin's VivoActive smartwatch. Available with black, blue, green or white straps, it measures in at 13mm thick and weighs just under 40g so it's not a bulky number. But with its thick black bezel surrounding a not so super sharp 128 x 128 resolution monochrome screen, it's every bit a sports watch without a whole lot of style.

On the plus side, it's been slapped with a 5ATM (up to 50 metres) waterproofing rating so you can take it for a dip in the pool. It just won't track swimming sessions like a Fenix 3 or the Vivoactive HR.

Along with Garmin's own proprietary Elevate optical heart rate sensor on the back of the watch, there's also four physical buttons to activate the 35 with a dedicated music button (a first for Garmin watches) to control music playback from your phone.

There is GPS, of course, to track runs outdoors while the accelerometer on board delivers indoor run tracking as well. While it hardly matches the dizzying heights of the Forerunner 630 for deep running metrics, it still offers pace, distance and time data, as well as a real-time readout of heart rate and heart rate zone.

You still get the great virtual pacer feature from other Garmin running watches and the ability to set up interval training and it also offers both auto lap and pause modes. It's all the basics even accomplished runners need.

Away from running, it's also a cycling-friendly watch too letting you pair it up with additional bike power/speed cadence sensor to track outdoor rides.

The Forerunner 35 inherits activity tracking features from the likes of the Vivofit 3 and Vivosmart HR+ trackers so it'll count steps, adjust step goals automatically depending on your progress and can automatically monitor sleep.

It also packs in Garmin's great Move Bar feature that indicates how inactive (lazy) you've been and will give you a vibrating buzz to prompt you to get up and moving again.

With the heart rate monitor included, you'll also be able to monitor heart rate activity continuously 24/7 giving you a better insight into health trends over the day.

Then as with all Garmin, you also get notifications on the wrist, that are some of the best in the game. With full messages displayed from pretty much, every third party catered, if it pops up on your phone it will appear on the watch.

So what don't you get? Anything more advanced than simple pace and distance data is out – and there's no Garmin Connect IQ. Of course, all runs and activity data will be shared with the Garmin Connect app.

Naturally, the watch doubles as a fitness tracker and you get 9 days of battery life in non-GPS mode, and 13 hours of tracked running. To put that into perspective, the Forerunner 235 offers 11 hours of tracked training and 9 days when using all of the features to the max. So it's impressive figures.

The Forerunner 35 is hardly a budget watch and enters the market at a retail price of R3,499.00 Incl VAT. It's an upgrade to the Forerunner 25, which enjoyed bargain basement prices online and represented one of the best budget running watches money could buy.

But it's the cheapest way runners can get their hands on a Garmin GPS running watch with a built-in optical heart rate monitor.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is now available in South Africa at R3,499.00 Incl VAT and Free Delivery* from! It is available with black, blue, green or white straps, and a charging cable is included. 

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