Forerunner 935

This My Day screen is the only picture I took of my Forerunner 935, to capture the stairs- and stepcount consisting of all 1’s at that moment. If I had planned a review of this device there would have been a whole gallery.

Usually I review devices that have been used for a good long time. When they are matured and most quirks are known, when prices have gone down and when used ones are on sale. But this Forerunner 935 was bought early. Maybe even too early. It has been shipped off to Garmin for the second time because of a non-functioning USB port.

The Forerunner 935 is essentially a “plastic Fenix 5”. It is a multisport watch with nearly identical functionality as the Fenix 5. The physical design is very similar, except for the screen (flat, not slightly domed), and the bezel (plastic instead of metal). It can be used with the same quick-fit straps as the Fenix 5. If you wish, a strap to match any outfit.

The FR935 is lighter and a bit less expensive than the Fenix5, and smaller than the Fenix 3.

Some of the features that are not on the Fenix 3: Running Dynamics Pod support, a built-in optical heart rate monitor, new widgets that make use of the 24/7 heartrate monitoring and the data derived from that (for example all-day stress monitoring). And Connect IQ 2.x, which offers a lot more if you program your own apps and widgets.

Overall the FR935 proved to be a great multisport watch. Especially now that (in Europe) you can use all of the accompanying phone app without having to upload your data. The FR935 is certainly better than the Fenix 3 – more options, quicker user interface, lighter, ad-hoc switching to another spors profile (no need to program a run-swim-run in advance), different icons for waypoints to choose from, and much more.

One thing is rather odd: the design of the charging/USB port on the back. The cable is connected perpendicular to the back of the watch. So it is not possible to charge the watch while using it.

It takes quite bit of force to click the connector on the port. For a frequent USB-connection user (transferring files and apps almost daily) this was worrying, but all seemed fine.

However, after about 3 months the USB connection became unstable. Next, the watch rebooted when connected to USB and no mass storage could be connected at all anymore. A new cable didn’t help. Garmin Support said they’d exchange the watch, and after 3 weeks a brand new FR935 in retail packaging arrived.

Thereafter I limited “USB contact moments” to once every 5 to 7 days when it needed charging, and then transferred all files at the same time.

That didn’t help. Again some 3 months later trouble started with altimeter drift in the order of kilometers while it was connected to a laptop. Then intermittent spontaneous mass storage disconnects, then no connection, then no charging. Reset to factory defaults, new cable, it didn’t help, and back to Garmin it went.

Of course this is by no means evidence that the USB port on the FR935 is no good. There may be 300+ posts on a thread about this issue on the Fenix 5X forum, but that pales in comparison to the number of posts about perceived GPS and optical heart rate inaccuracy (in my experience: GPS is excellent and optical heartrate works better than I expected).

And the service, while the watch is in warranty, is good, albeit slow. You have to submit the problem via email, wait for an answer, send in the watch, wait for assessment and handling and receiving it. This takes 5 to 15 business days. All in all chances are you’ll be separated from the watch for some 4 weeks.

From the 8 months of owning a FR935, it was usable for only 6. A 25% “downtime”. Maybe it is a fluke, but the design of this USB connector could have been better anyway. Older Garmin watches had easier-to-use and more robust connector designs, hopefully they’ll implement those again in newer generations in future.

The RD Pod would open up new options to experiment for developing a footbiking app. Unfortunately, the ANT+ HR-RD profile wasn’t made generally available at the time. It still isn’t (May 2018). You can use the HR-RD pod through CIQ 2.4.2 as of January 2018, but that does not give access to raw data.

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