Fitness, Reviews, Wearables

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs Tom Tom Runner 3 – and the Best MidRange GPS Sports Watch Is

Garmin Forerunner 35 vs Tom Tom Runner 3

When you are pushing it hard on that run, probably the last thing you need is trying to keep track of your sessions off-head.


Garmin Forerunner 35 in Black

Distance, speed, cadence, routes, calories, and so on, can be utterly overwhelming—virtually impossible to nail. But, what’s worse than spending around a hundred bucks only to have to spend a bunch more minutes in advance just to figure, set, reset and re-reset that “smart” sports watch? Nothing.

Heck, it is a “Smart” sports watch. It is supposed to help you do what matters the most in these kinds of situations—innovation that inspires. That is, worry less about the technical and instead, focus more energy on the workout, right? And who minds a GPS sports watch that offers a little motivation here, and a little coaching there—or at the very least, packs the essential tools to help you do both yourself?

tomtom runner 3

TomTom Runner 3 in black/green

You probably want to find out when you have hit that KM by having your fitness wrist buddy, ping you with a notification. We could do with a GPS sports watch that can re-track our runs back to the beginning. One that can show us the new route that we just conquered, the high elevation that’s helping us gain more red blood cells, even. Or a cool GPS sports watch that’ll sync wirelessly to its smartphone app while we leave it to take a shower after a run.

In those cases, the Garmin Forerunner 35 and TomTom Runner 3 think they can outrun your particular set of runner needs. So on this piece, we are taking these decent runners on a cross country beside each other. Plus, no one needs to jailbreak their savings account just to buy a nice sports watch. So that is a consideration here, too.

Editor Pick: Garmin vs Tomtom

We are thrilled to find out: between the TomTom Runner 3 and Garmin Forerunner 35, which sports watch is the best?

1. What is it?

The original TomTom Runner is somewhat the second generation of GPS watch coming out of TomTom. But, because the first was a collaboration effort between them and sports conglomerate, Nike, in the form of the Nike+ SportsWatch, the Runner is, in fact, the first ever TomTom GPS sports watch. That may mean TomTom has mastered the Runner out of experiences gained from studying and creating the Nike Sportswatch. Both watches even share looks.

TomTom’s Runner GPS watch measures decently, calculates and displays runners’ performance stats from both an outdoor run or private one on that treadmill you may be so fond of—this at a mid-range price. You can attach a secondary peripheral to this thing, too—such as a heart rate monitor.

On the other side, Garmin Forerunner 35 is similarly a less costly way to measure accurately, compute and analyze runners’ performance by mapping distance, speed, pace, and even routes.

garmin forerunner 35 colours

The Garmin Forerunner 35 – Easy-to-use GPS Running Watch with Wrist-based Heart Rate

It is the predecessor to the now popular Garmin Forerunner 15, and both have astonishingly similar faces—and most features are like, too.

GARMIN Forerunner 10 Forerunner 15 Forerunner 25 Forerunner 35
Physical dimensions 1.58” x 2.05” x 0.62” (40.1 x 52.2 x 15.7 mm); Black/Red & Orange/Black: 1.79” x 2.25” x 0.62” (45.5 x 57.2 x 15.7 mm) 1.58” x 2.05” x 0.62” (40.1 x 52.2 x 15.7 mm); Black/Blue & Red/Black: 1.79” x 2.25” x 0.62” (45.5 x 57.2 x 15.7 mm) 1.41” x 1.73” x 0.55” (35.9 x 43.9 x 13.9 mm); Black/Blue & Black/Red: 1.58” x 1.85” x 0.55” (40.2 x 47.0 x 13.9 mm) 1.4” x 1.6” x 0.5″ (35.5 x 40.7 x 13.3 mm)
Display size, WxH Pink/White, Green/White, Violet/White & Black/Silver: 0.81” x 0.77” (21 x 20 mm); Black/Red & Orange/Black: 0.98” x 0.94” (25 x 24 mm) Black/Green, Teal/White & Violet/White: 0.81” x 0.77” (21 x 20 mm); Black/Blue & Red/Black: 0.98” x 0.94” (25 x 24 mm) Black/Violet & White/Pink: 0.73” x 0.73” (18.5 x 18.5 mm); Black/Blue & Red/Black: 0.91” x 0.91” (23.0 x 23.0 mm) 0.93” x 0.93” (23.5 x 23.5 mm)
Display resolution, WxH 55 x 32 pixels 55 x 32 pixels 128 x 128 pixels 128 x 128 pixels
Weight Small: 36 g (1.3 oz); Large: 43 g (1.5 oz) Small: 36 g (1.3 oz); Large: 43 g (1.5 oz) Small: 31 g (1.1 oz); Large: 39 g (1.4 oz) 37.3 g (1.3 oz)
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion Rechargeable lithium-ion Rechargeable lithium-ion Rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life 5 weeks in watch mode; 5 hours in training mode 5 weeks in watch mode; 8 hours in training mode Small: 8 weeks, watch mode; 8 hours in training mode; Large: 10 weeks, watch mode; 10 hours in training mode up to 9 days, watch mode; up to 13 hours in training mode
Water rating 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM 5 ATM
High-sensitivity receiver
Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone)
Vibration alert
Music control
Find my phone
Watch functions Includes date and alarm
Design and Build

Who says you can’t run in style?

It is 2017, and one of the best things about a sports watch comes up in how it looks, grooves and smoothes onto and on your wrist. It is about durability, fit, skin irritability, what shows up (or misses out) at-a-glance on the display, if you can indeed add a peripheral (pulse rate taker, for example), and if the clasp will make you lose it the first time you take it out on a run. These could coax you to run—or not.

The TomTom Runner GPS Watch design takes a leaf (maybe a branch) off the sleekness of most basic smartwatches—looks like a toned down Sony Smartwatch 3. Most users will like its good looks right off the box. It is lightweight at 50g, and slim too (11.5mm at thickest point), and feels like TomTom designed the Runner for runners.

For a start, the large, 22 by 25 mm display is a real thing. It is ample for stealing a sneak-peek at your running stats in real-time, during day or evening runs (in Night Mode)—so you know whether you are getting around just fine or need to hype up or slow down the pace.

Garmin’s Forerunner 35 is not bad-looking either, but compared to TomTom’s offering, the former offers less novelty on the face. But the FR35 is beautiful on the inside. It keeps it frame slim, lightweight at 42g, and utilitarian—if that is a great thing. Its 2.1 by 2.0 cm (55 x 32 pixels) display may not be particularly pretty, but it gets the job done. It displays the time and day of the week, and you will need to fiddle the innards to get to your run’s stats—doesn’t show real-time run stats right on the home screen like its rival, TomTom Runner GPS sports watch.

The FR35’s clasp fits perfectly, so no worries about losing it while you run, but neither is the TomTom Runner a problem here either. Both sports watch brands thought a rubber clasp could do and we agree too. Both come with perforated straps that ensure the rubber doesn’t get too touchy-feely with your skin and probably wind up causing irritation or uncomfortable sticky situations. Still, the rubbery design of both comes in handy, helping both GPS watches to be waterproof up to 50 meters.

If you aren’t a swimmer as well, this is especially an unnecessary feature since you will most probably want to leave your TomTom Runner 3 GPS watch to sync to your computer via Bluetooth as you shower. Unfortunately, you can’t do so with the Garmin Forerunner GPS sports watch since it lacks Bluetooth connectivity support and you’d have to hard-wire it to your computer via USB connection—or get a Garmin FR 15 if the ability to wirelessly sync data is dear to you.

However, the Garmin FR35 is pretty sturdy when removed compared to the Runner, which fits into its removable clasp rather loosely. The TomTom Runner 3 feels like it would fall off if you decided to carry in your handbag or backpack to your preferred run location.

Maybe that is because TomTom’s Runner watch module and the clasp are two different parts of the same watch. The watch module comes attached together with the GPS module right below it, such that the GPS module is below the display when appended to the strap. Similarly, Garmin Forerunner 35 users can detach the core watch module. So both watches’ rubber straps can be swapped for a Favorite color if you feel it is a greater way to run.

Currently, Garmin FR35 offers bright colors such as orange, violet, lime green and pink. TomTom’s Runner can be exchanged for a limited gray and pink only—a tad un-inspirational if you don’t like either color. But, both watches are not as all-day accessories as the FitBit Flex or Nike FuelBand may be, and neither are both all-out activity trackers, so you probably will be wearing either for a run and clasping it off after you return—maybe.

That detachment also ensures you have unperturbed access to the USB charging ports built into the GPS watches. Look at both runner watches properly and the hardware suggests what you can do with the innards.

3. Garmin Forerunner 35 vs TomTom Runner 3: The GPS in the Watch for Runners and Performance Comparison

Garmin’s Forerunner 35 GPS watch sports is pretty straightforward to set up.

Out of the box, you’ll need to use the supplied USB cable to connect it to your PC or Mac via the charging port. Then download Garmin Express to your computer, which is what you will be using to enable any updates for the FR35. After this, create an account with Garmin and sign in. Your Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS sports watch will automatically detect and pair up to sync with your Garmin account.

The Forerunner 35 houses four buttons on the sides—two on the left and another two on the right. The button on the top-left controls the backlight, the one on the bottom-left is good for going back a screen. Press the button on the top-right and you can access the FR35’s options for starting a run.

The bottom-right button is useful for scrolling through those options. Scroll down and you will find: Race Options, Settings and History. Race Options lets you personalize what you want the F35 to collect, record and present to you. Some other really cool features exist here. For example, you can choose to activate “Auto Pause” to let the Garmin GPS watch sense that you’ve slowed down from a run to a jog and even more gradual to a walk. You can even set it up to ping you with an alert for the opportune time to pick up the pace for a walk, or slow down from a jog or run using the Run/Walk function—a pretty honorable trainer.

The same trainer will beep-beep, flicker a light on the display, and audibly murmur inspiration in your ear after every mile you thrash. And during a run, the device shows both distance ran and time over and done, but with a few tweaks (under Settings) you can set it up to concurrently show speed on the always-on display.

The History menu item enables you to track back those past races up to seven prior days’ data, or seven activities. And true to Garmin’s promise, the FR35 does the recalling in pretty relaxed and spot-on fashion. Be sure to check the internal memory status on the display. If it appears scary and spent, the Garmin Connect app can help.

Unfortunately, and unlike the TomTom Runner 3, the Garmin Forerunner 35 conspicuously lacks Bluetooth connection support. So the device cannot sync wirelessly to the GC app as you prepare that after-run smoothie or take a shower. However, whenever you attach the FR35 to your Mac or PC, and sync collected data, the History function reflects the revamped stats on your Garmin device on the go. If you prefer the unclamped presentation achieved by a PC or Mac display, you can analyze the stats from there via USB connection.

garmin connect features

Tracking, analysis, sharing and encouragement on Garmin Connect.

You need to stay around, though, unlike the Runner where you can leave it to sync to its accompanying, free IOS and Android apps (TomTom MySports Apps). Unable to attach extra peripherals, the FR35 also cannot hold a heart rate monitor like the TomTom Runner sports watch can. Garmin, however, more than makes up for this slip up in the Forerunner 15, which includes daily activity monitoring and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless syncing among other sweet offerings.

Garmin did not need to rip out the GPS module to net better, faster signal and pinpointing brilliance. But, they still achieved the necessary: the GPS mapping is pretty on point, though, if course, it will vary with locations where it is activated. One skilled user found that it took about 30 seconds to square them in an open park, while it searched unsuccessfully for a signal for up to 4 minutes before calling it quits entirely, in New York’s built-up district of Manhattan. This is not the power of GPS mapping you will find on a FitBit Flex, and is a much stronger than a Nike FuelBand, or SportsWatch will ever be, and ousts the TomTom Runner GPS sports watch by a tad.

We feel that Garmin were kind enough to label all four, side buttons with icon labels, so you can get to each in snaps, before getting used to it and not even need to glimpse over what push button to press—and risk tipping over. TomTom did not feel the need.

The TomTom Runner GPS module sports the “buttons”, instead of the core watch module bezel as in the Garmin Forerunner 35. That is a four-directional pad similar to those used for scrolling through options on earlier Nokia keypad phone models. Despite the different design, those four buttons work to serve pretty much the same purposes as the Garmin Forerunner 35 knobs. But the TomTom Runner GPS watch takes things to another level here, likely because of its dual run modes capability.

With a press of the left button, you get various stats displayed, including battery level and internal storage status. Push on the right one and the GPS sports watch gives you the options of either “Run” or “Treadmill”. For indoor, treadmill workouts, the TomTom GPS sports watch has a built-in accelerometer and sensors to help detect motions of the arms and collect the data accordingly. Follow up with a right push again on “Run” and that activates the GPS module to pinpoint your exact location. Push right when in action and live stats show up in great charm. Those include data being recorded in the form of stride length, lap time, cadence, speed, and if you have your heart rate monitor attached, real-time heart rate stats.

“Exact” is a strong word especially when talking about GPS watches, and open areas snap up GPS signals much faster than built up areas do, but not when describing the accuracy of the TomTom Runner. It is noticeably better than the satnav ability of the Nike SportsWatch, and more in tandem with that of the Garmin Forerunner 35.

TomTom has a name for its accurate GPS technology; they are calling it QuickGPSFix –pretty smart, although, depending on where you activate yours, the Runner can delay up to a couple of minutes before it locks your position from the Earth’s orbit. If you get a tad more motivated and start moving around, this could take longer too.

The down button is rather exciting and almost gets all the love. First, it is such a nice spot to sport the most functionality as it is the easiest, most intuitive button to press with your other hand while either running or standing still.

Secondly, by pressing the down button you get to launch Graphical Training Partner, a virtual assist tool you might want taking care of all your important workout stats, and course (ahem…motivate) you to push harder or tone it down a bit to get the most out of your sessions. Under GTP, you’ll find four useful modes to boost: Laps, Goal, Race, and Zone.

Laps let you set either manual or automatic laps, of course in consideration of distance and time to cover each lap. Goal, moreover, lets you be the visionary who knows what they want to get out of their runs and treadmill sessions by letting you set up distances to outrun. Choose to run against yourself and against a previous run you’ve conquered, and the Runner displays your current run and selected last run simultaneously.

If you set a certain distance, the GPS sports watch displays your live performance as a percentage of total distance. We like it that the TomTom Runner will vibrate to let you know you have reached (and, ideally, are crossing) your pre-set target or goal distance.

We like Garmin FR35’s audio notifications more, though. Because if you run with headphones on and running music blaring and body shaking, you just might miss the Runner’s stealth vibration—definitely not the same case when you have a Garmin Forerunner speaking straight to your ear drum.

That target could be a kilometer, mile, or whatever distances that suit you. New runners or treadmill trainers, especially, could benefit from this. So they can push a beatable distance and move further with time. Veterans can use the same functionality to pick up pace, tone down, and/or push over new milestones in their wake.

Race Mode, meanwhile, is at your service to compare your current run to previous ones, so you know your overall progress in real-time. Zone utilizes that info to determine if you are pushing too hard and need to slow down a little, or are a tad slow so you can pick up the pace. In either case, the GPS sports watch innards will let you know—first with a pleasant vibration, and then on the display.

We like it that you can use the stats collected by the Runner, connect it to your Mac or PC and sync the data via USB connection to your custom online MySports website portal. Or upload the data directly to MapMyFitness and RunKeeper website portals, as well as upload files (in such formats as FIT) in case you are unable to do so directly.

That is quite similar to what you can do using the Garmin Forerunner 35 Garmin Connect app, but varying where the Garmin does not support third-party apps or web portals to link up with your Forerunner 35 device. You would need to switch to Garmin Forerunner 15 to do the latter.

On a PC or Mac, on the other hand, you will almost likely fall in love with how powerful, detailed, easy-to-grasp, organized and convenient the Garmin Connect dashboard really is. You can even have your data organized in data cards, and then move these reports, route maps, and badges, and challenges however you like, say, to prioritize the most urgent, or best, or worst of them for quick access. We wish the mobile app were this good.

4. Battery life

How important is battery life in a GPS running watch? Imperative.

After all is said and done, a poor battery life spoils an otherwise great device. TomTom keeps its Runner GPS watch packed with a decent 10-hour battery life. This is all good, although, it slips lower to an 8-hour one if you have to keep that back light on to run in the evening under the watchful guide of Night Mode.

Garmin Forerunner 35 maxes out battery use and empties its jar in just over 5 hours, three hours less than the TomTom Runner and two hours less than its successor, the Forerunner 15.

5. Extras

Both best mid-range GPS sports watches come wrapping other innards such as the alarm function, just in case you need a little friendly beep to wake up and run early in the morning, or at other specific times. We also already mentioned the variety of straps both makers offer, which you can choose to suit your favorite running mode, mood, or motivation.

6. Price

At this time, both the TomTom Runner and Garmin Forerunner 35 have successors. Garmin has the Forerunner 15, and TomTom the Multi-Sport GPS Sports Watch.

The one reason why that is the best thing that could happen is because prices of both predecessors deep. TomTom’s Runner GPS Sports Watch currently sells for as low as $89 (down from $199) on Amazon and $84.20 from $129.99 for Garmin’s Forerunner 35.


Both handheld, GPS navigators are great options for runners that are on a budget or for those that are just getting a feel for anything runners’ wearable. Both pack decent GPS signal receptors, data syncing and analysis capabilities, and come with a friendly price tag.

TomTom’s more premium price tag shows in the features list compared to Garmin’s Forerunner 35, though. Your TomTom will see you through almost all activity you throw at it—swimming, tread-milling, running, jogging, walking, pulse rating, you name it. We really like how the wireless sync with both the IOS and Android mobile device apps work—so seamlessly.

But, if you are searching for a reliable, basic GPS sports watch to accompany you on an eventful, check-pointed fitness journey, Garmin Forerunner 35 is a decent option. You will almost instantaneously love getting in tandem with your run stats every time you connect to a Mac or PC to access the best of Garmin Connect.