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Garmin Forerunner 235 Vs. Forerunner 35: How Do They Differ?

I am known in my gym for always having a smartwatch on and checking it after every set. To be honest, it’s just a habit and I don’t even remember what I’ve checked on it, but I wear one all the time, that’s true.

I have had the Garmin Forerunner 35 for years, but recently I got the Garmin Forerunner 235 as a gift so I decided to do a review comparing Garmin 235 vs 35 and basically show you how to pick which one to buy since they are very similar.

Key Takeaways

  • The Forerunner 35 is a basic black-and-white smartwatch for beginners.
  • The Forerunner 235 has an advanced selection of features.
  • Both have discrete sensors on the inner side that monitor your heart rate.
  • The Forerunner 235 has a touch screen and the 35 has buttons on the side that may be better for runners.
  • Both can connect via Bluetooth to receive notifications.

Quick Overview

Since both of these models are similar, before I get into the specifics I want to make a quick overview so you know what to expect and what are the basic features of the models.

Both the Garmin Forerunner 35 and the Forerunner 235 are GPS-running watches. The batteries on both of them last a long time and they monitor your heart rate and exercise 24/7.

The Forerunner 235 is generally considered to be an upgrade from the Forerunner 35, and since I have been using the 35 for a long time, I do see some differences, but honestly nothing too significant.

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 35: Comparison

Style: Garmin Forerunner 235 & 35

The Forerunner 35 has a sleek square design and a comfortable band that goes around your wrist and feels very soft and light. Its dimensions are 1.4 x 0.5 x 1.6 inches.

The square screen has a dark frame around it that has the logo on the bottom. On the sides, it shows the placement of the features and it has an optical heart rate sensor on the back underside. The sensor is active all the time and will give accurate stats about your daily activity.

It feels very natural and after some time I forgot that I am even wearing it. It doesn’t get stuck when I put on tight-fitting log-sleeve shirts and, it’s discrete enough so I can wear it with almost anything.

The Forerunner has a circular form and it looks more like a traditional watch. The design is also sleek, but in my opinion, it is a bit flashier than the 35. Its dimensions are 0.50 x 1.80 x 1.80, so if you take into consideration the different forms, the 235 is slightly bulkier.

The 235 also has a dark frame around the screen, with a logo on the top and the stats placings on the sides. It is also very lightweight and you won’t feel a thing after a few wears.

I personally prefer the 35 when it comes to the design, but it’s just my personal preference. I like square smartwatches more, but if you want a traditional look, then you’ll probably like the 235 better.

Display: Garmin Forerunner 235 & 35

The Forerunner 35 has a black-and-white display which I found to be surprisingly easy to view even in direct sunlight. I do however find it to be a bit too much on the eyes when it lights up in dark places.

When I wake up and I look at the screen I tend to squint for a few seconds before my eyes can adjust, but this happens with every type of screen, so I guess it’s nothing to faun upon.

The screen on the 35 is black and white unlike the colorful screen on the 25. Also, the 35 has 4 buttons, two on each side, that are used to operate the watch.

The 235 has a touch screen which I actually prefer more. I see however how some runners like the buttons on the 35 more, but I use my watch all the time so a touch-screen I more convenient.

Features: Garmin Forerunner 235 & 35

Both the 35 and the 235 have basic features like Indore and outdoor running modes, cycling modes, and similar, their effects are measured by your heart rate via a discrete sensor.

The 35 has a lot of customizing options such as HIT programs that can alert you by vibrating. I used this mode a lot in the gym, I would set the 30/30 mode and run for 30 seconds on the treadmill, and then walk for 30 seconds, repeat 5 times, and your cardio for the day is done.

I like that the 235 keeps track of your stats and stores them for later analysis. It tracks pretty much everything you do, including distance, sleeping schedule, calories burned, and so on. It also uses vibration signals as well as sound notifications.

The 235 is more tech-friendly, allowing you to connect to other apps if you want to. This comes in handy because on its own it’s not that great at tracking your lifting sessions so it’s better to use an outside source.

I have to admit, even though I’m trying not to be dependent on technology as much, all the features on the 235 tend to come in handy, but I do find myself spending a lot of time on my watch. I know weird sentence to use, but it’s true.

Both the 35 and the 235 can receive basic notifications like messages, calls, and other app notifications as long as they are in the range of the Bluetooth signal.

The 235 however has a few extra features like training programs you can download, advanced workouts, auto-scroll, recovery time, custom alerts, and so on.

To be honest, I thought that I would be so excited about exploring all of them, but truth is, I only stick to the basics and don’t use all the fancy options on the 235 anymore. If you are a tech nerd, by all means, explore away, but I got bored pretty quickly.

Battery usage: Garmin Forerunner 235 & 35

Regarding the battery life, I found that on its own the 235 can last longer (around 12 days) if I am not using any features and the 35 will last for about 7-10 days. However, if I am using features the 35 can last for 4 days, while the 235 lasts for around 2-3 days. Both of them charge very fast though.

I can go around 5-6 days only partly using some features on the 35, and honestly, I prefer that over the 235 when it comes to battery life.

Pros and Cons

Forerunner 235


  • Advanced features
  • Colored screen
  • Water-resistant
  • Lightweight


  • More expensive
  • May be bulky for some

Forerunner 35


  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Basic design
  • Water-resistant


  • No color display
  • No touchscreen

Final verdict

Okay, so I have to admit that if I were to go in a store and pick Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 35 I’d go with the 35.

This is mostly because of the price difference. The 235 is way more expensive compared to the limited feature advances it has. Also, I like the square shape more because I have tiny wrists and the 235 looks big on me.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t wear the 235, since I do own both, I wear my 235 to the gym because it does offer some features that I might use such as the training programs. When I feel uninspired, especially on cardio days, I can put on a program and follow along. For everyday use, I prefer my 35 though.

Your preferences might differ from mine, but at least now you know how to distinguish one model from the other and your decision is going to be easier.

If you are a beginner with a limited budget, the 35 will be the right purchase for you.  On the other hand, if you are looking to upgrade to a newer version, by all means, go for the 235.