Honestly, I was super excited when I upgraded my GPS watch from a Garmin Forerunner 220 to the new Garmin 735xt. Activity tracking, optical heart rate monitor, extended battery life of 14 hours and eventually even longer – I was stoked. This would be the watch I wanted to run my very first 50 mile race with, but in the end I returned the Garmin 735xt and bought a Suunto Ambit3 Peak.
I loved everything about the Garmin – the ease of use, the weight, the color display, the data – everything … except for the battery life. Initially I did not keep track of the battery life too much – trusting Garmin on this one, but then about 4 weeks out from my 50 miler (09/24/2016) I kept track of usage and battery levels and I was not impressed to say at least. After using it for 7.5 hours I had only 22% of battery life left. I tried again and the numbers matched up with what I saw before. My estimates looked like I would have the Garmin to be dead at around the 10 hour marker.
Garmin 735xt Battery Life Sucks
So, I read more reviews about the watch to see if I would be missing something. DCRainmaker saw 15 hours or more from his Garmin 735XT when using the heart rate strap and not the optical heart rate monitor. Well, I never used the optical heart rate monitor for running – always the strap, but my results were so very different from his. I looked at the settings and started turning stuff off, but again with no positive results.
Another issue I had was that one day the Garmin locked up and I had a hard to get it back to life. The display was completely messed up and unreadable. Somehow I was able to do a reset and things seemed fine after that, but now I wonder if that situation was related to the weak battery life.
Then 1.5 weeks ago I opened a ticket with Garmin support about the battery life … and it got quiet (crickets anyone?!). No response from Garmin support. Nobody responded to my support request. I was very disappointed to say at least. I started looking around to see what options I would have. I was still in the 30 day range of having the new Garmin and so I could return it easily (but with heavy heart). Other Garmins with longer battery life looked appealing from a performance perspective, but I found them ugly from a design perspective or also found a lot of reviews where people complained about the battery life of them, too.
Update: Today, 09-08-2016 – Garmin support finally responded to my original support request from 11 (!) days ago – citing high call and ticket volume for the “delay”. Pretty lame in my opinion! How about notifying customers of longer wait times, but assure them that their ticket is going to be worked on?! Not impressed at all.
Then suddenly I saw an advertisement for the Suunto Ambit3 Peak on Facebook – claiming 40% or more off the original price for the Ambit3. I went into research mode, compared prices, features, and expected battery life as well as what people were saying about it on Facebook and in the end I made the difficult decision to return the Garmin and to switch brands. Good-bye Garmin. I bought a new Ambit3 Peak – saving myself roughly $160 along the way (compared to the Garmin 735xt).
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak takes a little bit to get used to, but I am getting the hang of it now. The interface is different and configuration and setup are different and maybe not as intuitive as the Garmin, but I do not see that as a problem. I also had a Garmin for the last few years, so the learning curve was much smaller when I got the 735xt. I do love the feature set and the battery life is living up to my expectations so far. I am still able to pull the data into Strava, too which makes me happy. Of course I ordered the heart rate monitor with the Ambit3 as I run by heart rate.
I am very disappointed about Garmin’s tech support. I am sure there is an explanation for it, but being under the gun from a timing perspective for my race I felt like I had no choice other to return the 735xt. I could have opened another ticket with Garmin as well, but I wanted to be able to return the watch if necessary. I was thinking to maybe replace it with the same model, but I did not want to take that risk of seeing the same weak battery life with another Garmin 735xt. I want to feel comfortable entering my first 50 mile race and being worried about battery life would not be fun. So, there you have it – if I would have gotten good customer support from Garmin, maybe things would have been different. Garmin lost out in this case.