Garmin has been at the forefront of outdoor gear for a while now.
Over the years, they’ve released countless fitness-based products to help you get out there and tackle biking, running, swimming, hiking, or really anything outside. No longer just a GPS-based training company, Garmin offers plenty of devices to keep you moving, no matter where you are.
All that said, it makes sense that the company would look to improve their offerings, and one of their newest fitness watches is the Fenix 5.
Building off the highly-successful Fenix 3 series, the Fenix 5 was released to appeal to a broader audience of users, while hopefully becoming your every-day fitness watch.
Do you need something like this fitness watch in your life? We’ll breakdown exactly what the Fenix does, in addition to the pros and cons of a high-quality watch.
What is the Garmin Fenix 5 and How Does It Benefit You?
To put it plainly, the Fenix 5 is one of Garmin’s premium GPS-based smartwatches.
The idea is to offer a compact, multisport GPS watch featuring a built-in heart rate monitor, plenty of fitness tracking features, and even Wi-Fi for the high-end models.
High-end Performance for Everyone
Essentially, there’s not a whole lot the Fenix 5 series of watches can’t do for you. Using Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you can monitor your heart rate 24/7 without any cumbersome chest strap needed. This feature allows you to track total calories burned, how intense your workouts are, and more information regarding any workouts than before.
Included are preset performance features to aid in hitting your stride quicker.
These come in the form of activity profiles which can act as an on-wrist coach to improve overall fitness levels. Some of these include golf, trail running, open-water swimming, hiking, skiing, even paddle boarding, among others.
Plus, if you need more advanced profiles, simply download them from the Garmin Connect community.
Unlike some other fitness GPS watches (which we’ll talk about later,) the Fenix is a fully-functional smartwatch. This means that on your runs or bike rides you can still receive an email, text, or call notifications right on your watch.
You might think this is a gimmicky feature, but rest assured, once you’ve experienced notifications via a watch, it’s hard to go back to a standard phone screen.
The battery life should last 12 days on smartwatch mode, or up to 20 hours when the GPS sensors are in use. All the Fenix models include a standard one-year limited warranty, which covers defects or failure of normal usage.
The Lowdown on Materials and Extra Features
If you’re concerned about the watch’s materials, don’t be.
The Fenix 5 is made to withstand and endure most conditions thrown at it, and the watch is designed to perform. Crafted from top-grade full grain leather, titanium metal, and stainless steel where needed, along with optional sapphire glass on top for superior abrasion resistance, you won’t have to worry about the watch breaking any time soon.
On top of all that, there are a few other features to note, in the form of Quickfit Bands, Connect IQ, and Garmin Connect.
Quickfit Bands are offered by Garmin to customize the look, and feel, of their watches, and the Fenix 5 has plenty of bands to purchase if you want a different style. Connect IQ is Garmin’s app store for their watches, allowing you to download or purchase apps and widgets for your device.
Lastly, Garmin Connect provides an online application to track and monitor your fitness levels right from your computer, or smartphone. You can track data, challenge friends, and share workouts, among other things.
If it wasn’t apparent from the start, the Fenix 5 has a lot going for it, but can it deliver?
Pricing Out the Garmin Fenix 5 Watch
We know what you’re thinking: all those features must cost a lot, right?
In short, sort of.
The base model can be found in three case sizes, offering 42, 47, and 51mm-sized bands. The smaller two bands start out at a retail price of $550. The 42mm case size is called the Fenix 5S, while the larger face is known as the Fenix 5X.
With that option, you’ll get a rubberized band in the color of your choice, along with all the features we covered above. If you step up another $100, that can get you the sapphire glass option across all case sizes.
If you want, or need, preloaded topographical maps of the U.S., the 51mm case is the only option that offers that feature. Otherwise, you can use the Connect IQ store to use any of the map applications, to less accuracy.
The top of the line 51mm case with maps and sapphire glass will run you $750 out the door.
Overall, these are high numbers, but you’re paying for a high-end fitness tracker with smartwatch capabilities and proven track record in the industry.
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So, What Does Everyone Think of the Fenix 5?
Garmin’s GPS smartwatch is universally praised.
Often, it’s hard to find a product that is liked across the board, even for something with such a high initial price tag, but the bottom line is that the feature-packed smartwatch fitness tracker is among the best out there.
The features alone are an easy way to see why, and the build quality leaves nothing to be desired.
From changing out the touchscreen of the Fenix 3 to physical side buttons, along with improving the water resistance rating to 100-meters, Garmin has thought of everything here.
There’s really no activity the Fenix can’t track, which makes the all-purpose nature of the watch even more appealing universally. Whether you’re an avid runner, a climber, or even a skydiving instructor, there’s an activity profile for you.
Most reviews found that the watch to be comfortable for long periods of time, the heart rate monitor was accurate, and the battery life lasted its rated effectiveness, even for fitness tracking with GPS. There’s even a breadcrumb feature that allows you to track your route back to the start, should you lose your internal compass.
Overall, people seem to like it, and once they’ve used it for one activity it tends to become their go-to watch.
Really, the only things we found people to dislike were the upfront cost, of course, and the lower-than-average resolution screen. While these are legitimate concerns, the watch still sports a 240-pixel by 240-pixel resolution, and the Fenix 5 is a premium device.
Thus, the cost is to be expected from something that can replace, and look like, a non-outdoors-based watch.
How Does the Fenix 5 Compare to Other GPS Watches?
In terms of the smartwatch, GPS-based fitness watch category, there’s a good amount of competition to be had.
Apple Comes to Town
For starters, a lot of people who are entrenched within the Apple operating system will gravitate towards an Apple Watch Series 3. The fact is you can buy a fully-loaded Apple Watch Series 3 that has GPS, Cellular, and an OLED screen for display, for less than any sapphire screen model of the Fenix (at $629.)
This may be the stiffest competition that Garmin faces, in all honesty.
The Apple Watch may not be as feature-rich for the obscure activities like skydiving that the Garmin covers, but it does have access to the app store with full support from app developers.
Some of these are based on big name fitness companies, such as Nike, producing good apps and training programs that most people will find good enough.
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Other Outdoor Companies Offer Their Own Watches
Of course, there are also big-name enthusiast brands, like Suunto and TomTom, who produce their own GPS fitness watches.
For Suunto, there’s comes in the form the Spartan Ultra GPS watch. This is a feature-laden watch from a leading outdoor manufacturer, so it makes sense that it is directly competing with the Fenix 5.
For another high-end fitness brand, Suunto’s GPS watch offerings are diverse, and deep with technology. The Spartan Ultra has activity tracking for 80 different sports, 100-meter water resistance, all while looking like a premium piece of equipment.
Battery life is less-than-stellar though at 10 hours in GPS mode, and the touch screen could put some people off.
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As for TomTom, their Adventurer GPS Multisport Watch allows you to do quite a bit despite its low price tag of $350.
This watch has most features that any standard training enthusiast would look for, such as GPS, barometer, heart rate monitor, a built-in music player, Bluetooth capabilities, and is quite a bit lighter than the competitors.
The drawbacks, though, include the overall plastic design, and activity modes that are missing. Overall, it can be a good option for those not looking for the pinnacle of outdoor design.
Our Thoughts on the Garmin Fenix 5
We like it, a lot.
It’s hard to have a definitive answer to the fitness tracking game, but Garmin seems to have a winner with their GPS watch.
The watch is sleek, looks great, and packs all-purpose use across numerous categories. With technology such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and smart features packed into a device that can withstand 100-meters of water and track you when golfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and even horseback riding.
It’s also one of the first outdoor devices to feature, and implement well, the use of topographical maps. The heart rate detection works well, though it’s not as accurate as any chest strap would be.
As for the drawbacks, the smaller models only have 64MB of onboard memory, and the displays aren’t as crisp as some cheaper options from competitors. The prices are steep, too.
All that said, if you need the ultimate fitness companion for tackling whatever life throws at you, or you go searching for with a fancy GPS watch, the Fenix 5 should have your back most of the time.
Increase Your Fitness with Garmin’s Latest Watch
At the end of the day, using the Fenix 5 for any activity should feel good.
The best part about having a premium, ready-to-tackle any mountain or sport device is that it can make doing anything more fun, and easier.
With it on your wrist, you won’t feel limited when trying to detail all facets of your fitness goals. Having a product that works as intended, even when costing quite a bit, is al ways great, and the Fenix delivers.
Think about it like this: if you have a nice riding lawn mower to cut your grass, you probably won’t mind mowing your yard. On the flip side, if you need to mow three-acres of yard with a push mower, chances are it will take some convincing to get the job done.
Over the course of time, the riding lawn mower may even last longer, and prove to be a better investment.
The takeaway here is that both models will get the task done, but one will do it better, more efficiently, and is enjoyable to use (for some.)
In this case, the Garmin Fenix GPS watch is the riding lawn mower, ready to take whatever you throw at it in stride.
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