Garmin has been the go-to watchmaker for outdoorsy types since the first Fenix shot onto the scene, and it’s only gotten better with each iteration.
With a multitude of multi-sport modes, amazing battery life and fantastic, in-depth exercise tracking, the Fenix 3 was a regular member of our top 10 smartwatch and fitness tracker lists. Now though, it’s time for a change.
Garmin has brought three new Fenix models to this year’s CES - and made such big changes they’ve skipped a whole generation, going straight from 3 to 5.
The Fenix 5 is here, and we’ve tried it on.
RISE OF THE FENIX
The 47mm Fenix 5 is the leader of the pack, a more compact version of the Fenix 3 HR that still packs in all the sensors we’ve come to expect from the range. That includes a three-axis compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, GPS and Garmin’s own Elevate heart rate sensor.
It still looks sizeable sat on your wrist, but not as much as the previous-gen Fenix 3 did. It’s built to take a beating, with a brushed steel case and optional sapphire glass keeping the screen scratch-free (for an extra US$100). You can switch between leather and metal straps if you fancy a change from the standard rubber one, too.
A few subtle changes then, but ones that make the Fenix 5 much more of an everyday watch - not just one you wear when it’s time get get active.
You should get two weeks of battery life when you’re in smartwatch mode, and around 24 hours with GPS running.
X MARKS THE SPOT
The Fenix 5X is ‘slightly’ larger at 51mm. I say that, because it looked flippin’ massive sat on my wrist. Those gains do make room for built-in Wi-Fi, though, and the 5X also arrives with a sapphire screen.
It has integrated maps, too, along with an Around Me mode that picks out points of interest and sticks them on top of your sports tracking watch face for easy at-a-glance checks. I didn’t get to try that mode out, but it could be great for adventurers looking to explore without getting lost.
It’s not quite as premium as the Fenix Chronos, even if you are getting a stainless steel band instead of a rubber strap. Whether it’ll be worth the extra cash depends on whether you’ll be getting your explore on or not.
S IS FOR SLIMLINE (PROBABLY)
Garmin’s first bash at making an outdoorsy watch for women isn’t just a slimline Fenix 5 - it’s got a tweaked design too. That doesn’t mean it loses the brushed steel case, chunky buttons or built-in heart rate monitor, though.
It’s instantly more at home on smaller wrists than the standard Fenix, and looks pretty neat in the white version I tried, but there’s no mistaking it for a sports watch - no amount of styling could hide that huge round screen.
Because it’s physically smaller, there’s also less room inside for a battery. That means only eight days away from the mains in smartwatch mode, and only 13 hours in GPS mode. Not so great for ultra marathon runners, then, but still more than enough for most activity addicts.
Sticking with the tried-and-tested transflective LCD it used for the Fenix 3 is a smart move - Garmin watches were already some of the easiest to read in virtually any lighting conditions, and that’s still true with the Fenix 5.
There have been a few tweaks, though. The colours are that little bit more vibrant now, and text looks a tiny bit sharper - even if you’ll still be wiping the screen regularly to get rid of fingerprint smudges. It’s a magnet for ‘em.
The overall UI hasn’t really changed, so existing Fenix owners will feel right at home. You’ve got dedicated sports and activity tracking screens. step counts, resting heart rate and a digital compass to toggle through, plus music controls with a paired smartphone.
It’s a little bit easier to add new widgets now, though, making the Fenix 5 ripe for customisation.
Garmin Fenix 5 INITIAL VERDICT
All three watches can take a dunking down to 100m, so you can take them snorkelling and scuba diving as well as into the shower. They all play nicely with Garmin’s Connect IQ smartwatch features too, putting call, text and email notifications on your wrist and working with third party widgets downloaded through the Garmin Connect app.
They’re still just as runner-, hiker-, swimmer- and cyclist-friendly as the last generation, only now the Fenix isn’t a one-size-fits-all watch. Instead, you can pick the one that’s right for you - and more choice can only be a good thing.
You’ll be able to pick one up in the next few months, with prices for the Fenix 5 and 5S starting from US$599. The Fenix 5 Sapphire, Fenix 5S Sapphire and Fenix 5X will set you back US$699.