Those of us who are into fitness have plenty of options when it comes to fitness watches, and so the question becomes what do we want the most out of them. After all, what matters the most to us isn't just accuracy of our heart rates and activity, it's also the information and data you can get out of it. Did we work out enough? Were we in the right state to lose weight/gain weight/maintain?
A lot of fitness watches are now finding more ways to give you better control of your fitness journey, and one of those definitely includes Garmin. After reviewing the Garmin Venu, I got the chance to test out the Garmin fenix 6 and I have no doubts that after testing it out, there's a reason why the fenix 6 is Garmin's top-tier fitness watch.
Before I get into that though, it's important to know that there are different versions of the fenix 6 to look out for. There’s the standard fenix 6 model which has a 47mm case, there's also a more compact 6S that touts a 42mm case and slightly lower battery life. Finally, there’s the more powerful 6X which has a slightly better battery alongside music, Wi-Fi, maps as standard.
While these are unavailble in Malaysia, it's important to note that a Pro version of these models exist, which adds music compatibility, maps and Wi-Fi connectivity. And for those willing to splurge, there’s the 6X Pro Solar version; the model which boasts a super light all-titanium body and brand new Solar panels for an extra boost in battery life.
For me, I tested out the Fenix 6 the Pro Sapphire edition, which sits on the upper-middle end of the range and has access to the major features, alongside a much tougher, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal screen. So my review will be touching on this version instead.
Design: Tough yet not bulky
Let's make this clear; the Garmin fenix series is definitely not your typical smartwatch like the Apple Watch or Samsung Watch Active series that's meant to look smart or classy - the design of the fenix 6 is most definitely aimed for those all about fitness - rugged and robust.
You can tell the design is all about withstanding any harsh elements of the great outdoors. It can get muddy, bashed around, plunged underwater, and even survive extreme temperatures. This makes the fenix 6 the ultimate fitness watch for the gutsy outdoors person.
The fenix 6 boasts the same clunky design that the series is well known for with just a few tweaks to make it a little less bulky. For instance, it’s still 1.1mm slimmer, measuring 14.7mm thick, which is down from 15.8mm from the fenix 5 and also weighs 7g less. Sure it's not much but it's still a much welcome improvement for such a chunky smartwatch.
In terms of the screen, it comes with the biggest design upgrade is all about the fenix 6 screen. The display is now 17 percent larger than that seen on the 5 Plus, leaping from a 1.2in, 240x240 resolution display to a larger 1.3in, 260x260 offering. This may not seem like a lot, but text is a lot more legible and less pixelated, and you can see more options without having to squint.
It can seem lacking in the presence of all those smartwatches with OLED screens and colourful displays. Instead, it uses a transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) screen, which relies on external lights to illuminate when in well lit conditionals, and an LED light backlight (in true ‘90s Casio watch style) when not.
It still comes with colours but they're a little muted and you will need to download another app if you want more designs. On top of that, it's not a touchscreen; the Fenix 6 is controlled entirely using buttons, which can be confusing to navigate for those who're used to touchscreen navigations.
This may seem troublesome but there's a good reason for this design; it ensures the watch works well in wet and windy environments, especially underwater, and even prolong battery life, which can be important for those who're outdoors for long hours.
While it took a while to get used to the button navigation, once I got the hang of it, it was a lot easier than I expected. The buttons are easy to press and it's unlikely you would accidentally press them unknowingly. Now to unlearn it when I review the next smartwatch is another issue...
Features: Fitness Freak Galore
Let's get down to what really makes the fenix 6 powerful; its features. As mentioned, it's all about fitness and as such the fenix 6 comes with features such as the pulse oximeter, branded by Garmin as ‘Pulse Ox4’ which allows users to see how well their body is absorbing oxygen.
There’s also stress tracking and the new Elevate HR sensor, which uses Garmin’s own proprietary optical-based heart rate sensor technology. Great for those who consider rest time just as important as the activity itself and to ensure proper rest and prevent injury.
There's even an abnormal heart rate monitor that will alert you if your heart is acting irregular, which means you either need to take it easy on your workout or you need to see a doctor soon. Just like the Apple Watch 4 and 5.
Using it during workout proved to be great. It didn't weight me down, nor get in the way as some smartwatches do with big screens. They also kept me on track with my heart rate - alerting me when I hit a certain heart rate range (which is necessary when doing HIIT) and so far I found the information to be quite accurate.
After which, I always look forward to reading the results; right on the watch I can see the training effect (the level of aerobic and anaerobic) and even see how long my average heart rate was. It will take a bit of time to appear, and first time users may not be sure how to access it, but it remains one of the best smartwatches to help me along my journey with HIIT.
You can also use the smartwatch for hiking; it comes equipped with a hiking tracking feature that gives you both the highest elevation achieved as well as instantly track your journey with GPS. I have no doubt it will do well in swimming, though I have yet to test out that aspect myself.
Battery: As much as you need
According to Garmin, you can get about 14 days out of the fenix 6 when it's in regular smartwatch mode. This is definitely true, as you will see the battery life plummet quite significantly the moment you use it for any fitness work. Add on GPS and the battery life drops down even further.
That's not necessarily a bad thing because if your planned hikes or workouts are within a day or two, the battery still lasts as long, maybe a week top. But use it normally and the battery life lasts really long. Take note that charging will take about 3 hours when it's completely dead, so you will have to wait for a bit.
But once it's back up, you can expect to get so much out of it.
As someone starting my fitness journey for the past few months, the Garmin fenix 6 is the top of my favourite fitness watches to date. Sure, it lacks the finesse of the Apple Watch, and you can’t have a lot of apps on it nor reply messages. But if you’re all about health and fitness and want the best in your fitness journey, this is it.
But with so many good things, you have to expect a high price. The Garmin fenix 6 costs a lot at close to RM4000, which makes it pretty unaffordable to many of us. All I can say is if you’re willing to invest in understanding your body and health through your fitness journey, the Garmin fenix 6 gives you all the details and more to give you a great idea of what’s going on with you.
But if you’re not a fitness freak and just need something more casual, then you’re best looking elsewhere.