August 21, 2017

Garmin Fenix 5 Overview

CES 2017 saw Garmin – the monopoly of GPS running watches – extend its high end running technology line of the Fenix watches by introducing the Fenix 5. This line of watches has definitely been the most successful for Garmin and with three new models being introduced, Garmin are continuing to push the Fenix forward.

The Fenix line, including the previous models of the Fenix 3 HR and the Fenix Chronos were multi-sport watches, offering everything from hiking to skiing to classic running. These features have all been maintained within the Fenix 5 which has seen smaller changes on the inside rather than a complete overhaul of what the watch is capable of.

The one big new feature however is the ability to do full mapping on the Garmin Fenix 5X, a brand new feature which gives this watch all kinds of new uses.


Various models

With he new Fenix 5 series, Garmin offer three different options. There is the Fenix 5S, the Fenix 5 and the Fenix 5X.

Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S

The Fenix 5 is the standard model of the new line, coming inn two sizes. The smaller 42mm size is branded as the Fenix 5S, whilst the standard Fenix 5 is of a 47mm sizing.

Despite the only difference being the size, I actually prefer the looks of the smaller, sleeker looking Fenix 5S. This is due to the lack of rugged screws on watch chassis as found on the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5X, although this being a hardcore adventure watch, the rugged look is prefer by many.

Both the 5 and 5S come in a non-sapphire or sapphire crystal variation, with the sapphire crystal version having a significantly stronger and robust screen. This does come at a cost however as the Fenix 5 with sapphire crystal display is $100 more at $699 compared to the regular $599.

What is nice though, is that both the larger and smaller models are both priced equally at $599 for the base model, meaning looks can be of preference rather than price.

Smaller Fenix 5S targeted at women – this model is surprisingly small and light
Fenix 5 and Fenix 5X side by side

Fenix 5X

The Fenix 5X is the powerhouse of all three of the new Fenix 5 editions. This version is bigger but more powerful with better battery life and memory.

The Fenix 5X is bigger than the standard Fenix 5 with a 51mm screen. The 5X also comes with a sapphire crystal display as standard. However the big difference is the ability to do mapping on the Fenix 5X which I will go into more detail on below.

The Fenix 5X comes with either a rubber or metal band, each determining the price. The Fenix 5X with rubber band starts at $699, whereas if you want a metal band it comes in at a high $849.


New Features

Aside from the slimmed down bodies and the new names, there have been some new specifications and features added to the Fenix 5 lineup.

In terms of the hardware of the watch, there is a new ‘QuickFit’ band system which allows you to quickly interchange the bands in the watch with a simple press of a button which is a nice feature, removing the need for screws. This is similar to that seen on the Apple Watch and adds a nice level of customisability to the Fenix 5.

Multiple variations and bands available

The screen has also seen improvements, taking it to the same level as seen on the Chronos watches. The resolution is now 240×240 on the Fenix 5 and 5X allowing for better implementation of Connect IQ apps. Alongside this, there are now 64 colour options up from the previous 16.

Despite these screen improvements, they still feel a long way off the great vibrant screens that are on some of the new GPS watches. The likes of Apple, Misfit and now New Balance have screens which match some smartphones. However, these watches also are more directed along the smartwatch route rather than the adventure/ athlete side; this shows the decision made by Garmin in the tradeoff between battery life and screen quality.

The final significant hardware improvement comes in Garmin’s Elevate heart rate sensor. This sensor made by Garmin was first put into the Garmin Forerunner 235 and then transitioned into the Fenix 3 HR. However, as Garmin’s technology has improved, the bump which was visible on the back of the watch as a result of the HR monitor has been eliminated, leaving a flush back on the Fenix 5.

Garmin Forerunner 235 and Fenix 5 comparison

As well as a flush heart rate monitor, the Fenix 5 also offers a higher sampling rate which means more accurate data will be relayed to Garmin Connect as a result.

As we would expect with all new pieces of technology, the internals of the Fenix 5 have been improved. This gives more memory and processing power to not only speed up the watch but also allowing it to handle more advanced Connect IQ apps.

Another new feature which I personally like is the addition of Strava segments. This allows you to compare your activities against those who have run, swam or cycled a similar route.

Garmin have tried adding their own segments option on Garmin Connect, however it is far from as clear cut as Strava which has a much higher usage an therefore more segments. The addition of Strava segments allows now greater competition between athletes.

These are just some of the new features which Garmin have added to the Fenix 5, however there are other ones too which offer great potential to the Fenix 5.

  • Bluetooth Smart connectivity
  • Improved menus and UI
  • 24 hour battery life in GPS mode
  • Golfing Features added
  • Gyroscope added to all Fenix 5 models
  • Improved training data and analysis

Mapping on the Garmin Fenix 5X

The biggest of the new features added to the Garmin Fenix 5 is fully functional mapping which is available on the Fenix 5X.

This new feature acts similar to how a traditional sat-nav would. The Fenix 5X has 16GB to store map data which you can then use to get directions to points of interest such as a restaurant.

In addition to directions on a map, there is both a Round-trip Run and Round-trip Ride feature on the Fenix 5X. As described by Garmin, this means that:

The Round-trip Run and Round-trip Ride routing options give runners and cyclists the ability to enter a distance they want to travel and have the watch suggest appropriate courses.

For me this is a game changing feature. When in a new place that you want to run or cycle in, you can now find a safe way of exercising without getting lost.

Previously, the best option would be to use MapMyRun and try and work out for yourself the best route, but then you would have to remember it. Now, you enter the distance that you would like to run or cycle and then the direction you would like to start heading in.

As a result of this information, the Fenix 5X will produce 3 courses along with the elevation, allowing you to choose the best route for you. Along with this, the watch will then give directions whilst out on the route to ensure you don’t get lost.


Summary

The Fenix 5 from Garmin is undoubtedly their most powerful GPS watch that they have ever created. However, it does not only have power but also a hint of beauty to it. It is engineered fully from metal, with a design that shows its class.

Having the ability to customise the watch, along with having various models of different colours and styles, allows the Fenix 5 to remain as a fashion statement whilst also being the top level fitness watch on the market.

Despite no extensive overhaul in features or design, I really like how Garmin have gone about refining the Fenix 5 and improving it over the Fenix 3 HR. The flush and improved HR sensor will make a difference as well will the greater power it possesses for developers to take advantage of through Connect IQ.

Finally, the Mapping features on the Garmin Fenix 5X really set it apart as the most capable GPS watch out there. With incredible 75 hour+ battery life it is the ultimate watch for anyone who is into sport and adventure – all in an elegant, yet powerful device on your wrist.

Thanks for reading!

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