The Garmin Fenix sits atop the extensive line of Garmin watches. Designed for sports first, this series has slowly evolved to offer all the features you would get from other smart watches, including absorbing lifestyle features, such as smartphone notifications, to present a very competitive combination.
Through this expanding line of devices, Garmin has a watch for all types of users, covering a full range of prices. The Fenix 6 is what has it all, but is it worth its considerable price as a result?
Serious watch design
- 42 mm, 47 mm and 51 mm sizes
- Choice of materials and finishes
- Easy-to-change strap mechanism
Garmin devices are becoming more like watches in recent years. Since sports devices that were once bulky, the lines have now narrowed, diversified, including offering premium materials and a variety of sizes to give a broader appeal.
There is no avoiding the fact that the Garmin Fenix is a large device. It should be, but it also attracts the target market that wants a screen big enough to see at a glance – it is now 1.3 inches, bigger than the previous version – and buttons are easy to access, so they are usable when wearing gloves.
This is also a description that fits diver’s watches, with a robust design that is extremely popular in the analog watch market. Garmin sees the Fenix as their premium device for outdoor adventurers and therefore offers a similar aesthetic to that of the diver. Although climbers and outdoor types can be the target market, there is no shortage of people using Fenix in cities, the office and the gym, because it is extremely versatile.
The Fenix 6 comes in several different versions, offering a smaller 6S model (at 42mm), standard 6 (in Pro or Sapphire editions at 47mm) and 6X (at 51mm, including the solar version). There are several different colors and styles, including titanium bezels and sapphire glass. They all have easily changeable strips, so you can quickly switch from silicone to leather or metal, if and when you want.
Your choices will have an impact on the price, from £ 529 (on 42 and 47 mm), £ 599 for the Pro (which adds maps, music and Wi-Fi), £ 699 for the Sapphire (which adds a glass display sapphire), the model in the figures here) and then upwards, as you choose the titanium panels and metal strips. In terms of features for your money, it is the £ 599 Fenix 6 Pro that is the most attractive overall.
The Fenix is really comfortable to wear for long periods, easily adjustable thanks to the substantial buckle on the strap, with enough flexibility in the silicone bands to be able to use it securely to get accurate heart rate readings without adjusting when the arm swells when the blood starts to pump. However, it is a little tricky to use to track sleep .
The screen is always on, with battery lighting, and features high contrast images so you can always see your stats. There is no support for touch on the screen, but in reality, using touch when you’re running can be (literally) a little wrong, so we prefer the buttons here.
It’s all about data interpretation
- Wide variety of metrics
- Explanation of evolved data
As a Garmin, you know that tracking sports and activities come from a long line of industry-leading devices. Heart rate, GPS, altitude, barometer, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer. Yes, many devices below the scale offer all or some of these things, but these more sophisticated devices are no longer just the data they collect – it’s about what they do with them.
We found that the heart rate monitor on the Fenix 6 provides mostly accurate readings, although if the watch is too loose, these results can slow down. Likewise, we saw the monitor getting confused and reaching 145bpm when we are walking, but a reset of the clock corrected that. These gremlins are not uncommon in optical sensors, but otherwise, we had solid readings. Of course, you can use a chest band if you wish.
We also found that GPS is accurate, returning our routes and distances as we expected, covering the important basics. This device has new GPS hardware compared to the previous one and is more energy efficient – in addition to quickly detecting a pleasant and fast location.
This covers the basics for the huge variety of sports offered. Like other Garmin devices, you usually receive custom screens for each sport, so you can see the information you need. It’s all customizable and there may be more options than you’ll ever need – but by offering so much, it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie who wants basic data or an enthusiast who wants something specific, how you can get it.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro also comes with color maps for Europe (if you are in Europe) and they are all loaded on the device so you can view your pre-loaded activity routes on real maps or use maps to orient yourself. We really don’t recommend it for anything other than a quick look – it can’t get over a suitable map and navigation is a little slow and small on this screen – but if you’re running a route, you can basically guide it easily.
Like many other Garmin devices, you can also use route tracking to return to where you started (great if you’re running away from home and getting lost), you can preload GPX routes and so on for running, hiking or walking more long. cycles, or you can repeat the routes you did before. We haven’t tested this watch a lot in terms of specific sports modes and options (it’s not ski season, for example), but we will update when we use more in the future.
Talking to your body
- Body battery
- Training status
- Altitude and heat climate control
Garmin – and many other sports platforms – have increased the number of evolved features that come from the data collected to inform more about what is happening to your body.
Training status is good for athletes, as it analyzes your activity and tells you whether you are doing too much or too little – or just enough. It relies on a lot of baseline data about your body to start forming a deeper picture of what’s going on, although it’s not exclusive to Garmin – Polar has a similar system.
Linked to this is the determination of the training effort, with recommendations for how much rest you may need. A limit session may receive a recommendation that you leave it 48 hours before training again – and this is considered against your baseline activity.
Garmin has expanded this with the Body Battery, which analyzes your activity and energy expenditure during the day, defines this in the context of your rest and sleep and produces an assessment of what kind of state you are in – and it is strangely accurate.
Sleeping while wearing the Fenix is not the most natural thing, because it is too big, but wearing the watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, unlocks the Body Battery, because you have readings 24 hours a day, all your movements, exercise and rest. Have a good sleep and wake up feeling rested; if you have had a busy day, you will need more rest. We all know that, but the numbers you get from the Garmin Body Battery seem to fit nicely into living reality.
Here is an example: living on the clock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and impressed with his performance at Body Battery, we went out for an award ceremony, enjoyed the party later and arrived home late. The next morning, of course, we felt absolutely drained. And this is what Body Battery showed: the five hours of interrupted sleep were not restorative because of the high levels of stress – probably a reflection of the effects of alcohol. Yes, a good day to skip a workout, but Body Battery also didn’t return to normal until two days later, a reminder of the impact these events can have on you.
We set this example in a normal social and work context, but there are also measures to take this to Fenix’s main market. PulseOx is a measurement that provides a reading of your bloody oxygen saturation. It was designed to help people know how well they are getting used to the altitude, which has a big impact on performance.
You can measure PulseOx all the time, but under normal conditions it is unlikely to be a reading you never need – you will always be in the green, unless there is something wrong, in which case, see a doctor. If you are going to the mountains and wondering why you are exhausted, it may be an indicator of what is happening to your body. Yes, this is a metric that is a small niche for most people, but the Fenix 6 Pro is more than just your average.
There is also an indication of acclimatization to heat. You’ll know that running at high temperatures takes some getting used to, but then again, the Fenix can quantify this and show how it’s performing, taking into account the heat.
Systems such as Training Status, Body Battery and the component elements that take them – heart rate tracking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, stress and sleep tracking – attract consumers and the most advanced levels. Whether it’s a look at the state of your body at home or when you’re at a multi-day event, these are interesting things. Obviously, if you are not interested, you can choose what you want.
It’s great for endurance athletes
- 14 days of battery life
- 48 battery life date in save mode
- Advanced stimulation functions
The Fenix 6 offers 14 days of battery life – and it doesn’t even happen in power saving mode. It is slightly better than the Fenix 5 models, but this is familiar territory for Garmin devices (the main Forerunner 945 is not that different). It’s also not a pie in the sky, it really lasts that long, so it’s a world away from the market-leading smartwatches that need to be loaded every night. Here, it is every two weeks that you will spend. 1
One of the things that we really like is that you also get a battery level reading when you go into an activity. For example, start a run and it will inform you that there are 48 hours of tracking available – so you know you can go out and run or walk 100 km and the Fenix has everything at your fingertips.
What Fenix offers above other Garmin devices is advanced battery management. This can reduce the clock in incremental stages to provide, for example, 60 hours of tracking or up to 48 days of battery life.
In addition, Fenix 6 also offers a new PacePro feature, which is an advanced system that allows you to set the target pace or race time and, most importantly, create a pace strategy for an event. It is a dynamic system, taking into account the gradient and also reflecting if you are ahead of the predicted time, allowing you to run faster or slower sections of a race and still maintain the goal – for up to 15 hours.
PacePro can also be integrated with step-by-step navigation and mapping, allowing you to scroll through the clock screens to see where you are and what is to come. In many ways, whether you’re running a 2:30 or a 10-minute 55-minute marathon, pace is still important and a useful resource for anyone running with specific goals in mind.
Although you can create target times or pace from the Fenix 6 itself, using the Garmin Connect website is much better – because you can create a PacePro strategy from a route, something you’ve used before, an imported event, the route from someone else or create a custom route on the map. It is as easy as clicking on the desired route and the result is a route, with changes in distance and elevation, from which PacePro can create a pace strategy for your run based on what you are trying to achieve. It is a powerful tool for anyone who wants to run by the numbers.
There are also all the normal training options, with the ability to sign up for training programs and have everything piled up on Garmin Connect and appear on your device. Like other Garmin devices, you can use the Fenix with a full range of other external sensors – from InReach (a satellite communication module) to pedals, cadence sensors, Garmin VIRB and more. It is very much the real deal.
Be a smartwatch
- Smartphone notifications
- Music without a phone
- Mobile payments
All data collected is synchronized with Garmin Connect (for Android and iOS or via the web page) and the level of connectivity has increased significantly in recent years. The application is now full of data and it is easy to connect more than one device; therefore, if you prefer to use a Garmin Edge device for cycling, for example, there is no problem.
But as a smartwatch, the Fenix also does just about everything you need. You will receive the full range of notifications from your phone, with Android users benefiting slightly more than the iPhone, thanks to Android’s quick responses, which means you can reply to a message with a stock response by pressing the button. This accounts for most of what others are using smartwatches.
There are also apps available on Connect IQ to add specific items to your Garmin, whether it’s an Uber app, another range of sporting data you want, or just more watch faces.
Fenix 6 Pro also supports the local music, allowing you to download playlists from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music to take the race. With Bluetooth headsets, there’s no need for a phone in your pocket – and there’s enough space for 2000 songs here. It takes a while to change things, but it’s easy enough.
Then there is Garmin Pay. This is not as dynamic as Apple Pay or Google Pay, because it is not as widely supported by banks (although support at payment terminals is the same), but if you want these payments, it is not difficult to open an account just for use with banks. this.
So it really doesn’t take much. Yes, the screen is not as colorful and vibrant as you get from the best-selling smartwatches, but the battery life is 700% better, which we think is a fair trade-off.Verdict
While the Fenix series is geared towards those hanging from the side of a mountain, there is much more to this smart sports watch. Essentially, it does everything that other Garmin devices do, all wrapped up in a single device.
In a sense, this is one of the only problems that the Fenix 6 can have: runners will discover that there is the Forerunner 45, between 245 and 645, up to 945; lifestylers have Vivoactive devices; while the older versions of the Forerunner and Fenix devices offer much of this watch’s wide feature set. So you can save money by looking elsewhere in the Garmin range.
But the Fenix 6 Pro offers much longer battery life, better protection and more robust construction for an increasingly comprehensive experience, taking advantage of Garmin’s entire athletic experience. It is also a very capable smartwatch, capable of providing the convenience of mobile payments and music, as well as notifications.
While some may see the sheer amount of data and functionality as excessive, there is something about Fenix that makes it a great life partner. Whether you’re training for a 5K, about to finish your third Ironman or participating in a multi-day adventure race, Fenix has something for you in terms of functions.
It is impossible not to applaud a device as impressive as the Fenix 6. As the sports-focused multifunctional smart watches go, there is no equal.