Best Running GPS: Garmin Forerunner 35 vs 235 vs 45

I'm a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Garmin is a big brand when it comes to GPS units in general, but did you know they make the best running GPS models? Today we’re going to compare three of their top units to see which is best. It’s Garmin Forerunner 35 vs 235 vs 45. Each one has different features and price points, so be sure to consider your needs and budget while reading our Forerunner review. By the end of this you’ll know exactly which one is right for tracking your cardio.

Garmin Forerunner 35Garmin Forerunner 235Garmin Forerunner 45
Best For: affordable, all the basicsBest For: reliable, Garmin Connect iQBest For: premium, Garmin Coach

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs 235 vs 45: Display

You’re going to be checking your running GPS watch pretty often, especially for text notifications or to see how long you ran. You want the screen to look good, right? While all three are definitely crisp, they offer different types of displays. Here’s a quick rundown of them:

  • Garmin Forerunner 35: monochrome, 1-inch, 128×128 pixels
  • Garmin Forerunner 235: color, 1.23-inch, 215×180 pixels
  • Garmin Forerunner 45: color, 1.04-inch, 208×208 pixels

As a side note, none of these are touchscreens. Everything is controlled by physical buttons. Read the next section for more info.

Our Garmin Forerunner 35 review ranks this as the lowest display of the three because it’s the smallest, monochrome, and has the lowest resolution. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means it isn’t as good as the other two. The display is crisp and easily displays messages, numbers, and your distance. It’s an affordable running GPS that looks good, but isn’t quite the best.

This is really a battle between Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 45. Our Garmin Forerunner 235 review found that this display is larger overall and has great color. Even though the Forerunner 45 is a newer model, many people prefer the 235 display because it’s bigger. Now, 0.20-inch may not seem like a big difference, but it’s huge when we’re talking about watches.

However, our Garmin Forerunner 45 review found that this model has one advantage. The resolution is a little better overall. The colors are more vibrant, messages clearer, and everything looks more crisp.

If you just want a good screen at the lowest price, then we suggest the Forerunner 35 GPS. If you want the largest screen, then the Forerunner 235 will be best for you. If resolution is your priority and you want the clearest screen, then the Forerunner 45 is the right running GPS for your needs.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs 235 vs 35: Design

We talked about the display itself, now let’s take a look at the whole watch.

On first inspection you’re going to notice that the 235 and 45 look more modern. It’s not just the rounded body compared to the 35’s square shape. Their profiles are also slimmer and they look newer because they are. They are two of the most modern running GPS models around and look the part. Once again, the 35 isn’t a bad unit, but it does look older. However, some people find the square design charming.

It’s again a rivalry between 235 and 45. Unlike in the display section where both win in different ways, honestly the Garmin Forerunner 45 looks the best. They have similar rounded designs and button configurations, but the 45 looks sleeker and nicer.

All of these have silicone bands and all three are quite comfortable. You’ll have no problem wearing this all day whether you’re sweating buckets or comfortably sitting at home or work. If silicone is not your thing, then you can swap out the band for another Garmin one or any other band that is compatible with these units.

As stated above, none of these are touchscreens. As such, they all have physical buttons and that’s actually a good thing. Remember, these are meant for running. Do you really want to use sweaty hands with a touchscreen? No, you don’t.

The button configuration is very similar. They all have buttons for power, checking your distance and steps, moving through messages, and going to the previous screen. The only difference is that there is only one directional button for the 35 while the 235 and 45 have two buttons: one for up and another for down.

All three are quite convenient and comfortable. The Forerunner 35 has an older design, but the button configuration is good and the band is comfortable. Both the Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 45 have rounded designs and five buttons, but the 45’s smaller display and better buttons make it somewhat better. Both are good, but the 45 edges out the 235 by just a little.

Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 45 vs 35: Features

We’ve covered how these fitness watches look, so how do they perform? All three have similar sensors for tracking distance, steps, calories burned, sleep quality, and heart rate. We’ll just be upfront and say it: the 45 is the most reliable of the bunch. It’s the newest of these three models and captures the most accurate data.

The 235 is close, but it really struggles during intense workouts when your heart rate is higher than normal. It seems to have a harder time keeping up with this data. If you need the most accurate data, then we suggest the 45. If you’re OK with similar (but not quite as accurate) data, then the 35 and 235 are still in the running.

They also all have auto pause, auto lap, app notifications when connected to your phone, and some app controls like for music. Their general features are all quite similar, but it changes when you consider the other Garmin services they can connect to.

The Forerunner 235 is able to connect to Garmin Connect iQ store. This gives you several proprietary apps along with different watchfaces and widgets to customize your watch. Forerunner 45 is able to connect to Garmin Coach, a program that helps you prepare for 5Ks and other major fitness goals. It’s ideal for those who want to dramatically improve their performance and ability.

How do they stack up? Forerunner 35 has the least number of features, but covers the basics very well. Forerunner 235 gives you access to more designs and apps through Garmin Connect iQ, and Forerunner 45 is the best with Garmin Coach to help improve your athleticism.

Garmin Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs 45 vs 235: Battery Life

You need a running GPS that can keep up with you. Don’t worry, all three of these have great battery life. But which one is the best? Let’s compare them.

  • Garmin Forerunner 35: 9 days regular, 13 hours GPS
  • Garmin Forerunner 235: 9 days regular, 11 hours GPS
  • Garmin Forerunner 45: 7 days regular, 14 hours GPS

For those of you who have never owned a runner’s GPS or fitness tracker, let me explain this. Any unit that has its own GPS requires that you manually turn the GPS on and off. Why? Because it requires a lot of battery power.

As you can see here, the Forerunner 35 lasts over a week if the GPS is off, but only half a day when it’s on.

Unless your cardio sessions are really long, these three are pretty equal. If you’re primarily going to use this in regular mode for tracking steps and app notifications, then the 35 and 235 are slightly better. If you’re primarily going to use this for running, then the 45 is the best followed closely by the 35.

There’s no clear winner here. They’re roughly the same and will all last a long time. You should only have to charge your watch every few days, even if you have a daily cardio routine.

Garmin Forerunner 35Garmin Forerunner 235Garmin Forerunner 45
Best For: affordable, all the basicsBest For: reliable, Garmin Connect iQBest For: premium, Garmin Coach

Final Thoughts

All three of these running GPS units are great, but which is best? It all comes down to your needs and preferences. If you’re looking for the most affordable running GPS but still want detailed data about your running, heart rate, and sleeping habits, then the Garmin Forerunner 35 is ideal.

If you want a premium running GPS with all the bells and whistles, a modern color screen, and a sleek design, then we suggest the Garmin Forerunner 45. This also connects to Garmin Coach to help you make detailed fitness plans, and it gives you the most accurate data.

Between these two is the Garmin Forerunner 235. It’s somewhat more affordable than the 45, and it has more features than the 35. It’s a great unit for those who want to get lots of features while also saving some money.

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs 235 vs 45 FAQ

Is the Garmin Forerunner 35 Waterproof?

Yes, it’s waterproof up to 50 meters. This is actually common to all the Forerunners. It’s the same answer if you ask is the Garmin Forerunner 235 waterproof or is the Garmin Forerunner 45 waterproof? They’re all good up to 50 meters.

Can you Answer Calls on the Garmin Forerunner?

It depends. While you will get notifications about a missed call, you won’t be able to answer the call if you’re using an Apple device. However, you should have no problem if you’re using an Android smartphone.

Can I get Text Messages on my Garmin Forerunner?

Yes, you can read incoming text messages on your Forerunner device.

Leave a Comment