A weekend in Seattle playing with the Garmin Fenix and other gadgets

Friday I flew out to Seattle ahead of a week of meetings here.  My flight route was a bit non-direct via Houston, bit I didn’t mind since I got plenty of sleep that way.  Plus, as we descended into Seattle, I was treated to this nice little view of Mt. Rainier:

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After getting to my hometown and parents place north of Seattle (near Mukilteo), I found a small pile of boxes – including one from Garmin with the new Garmin Fenix (now technically it’s spelled with a lower-case ‘f’, but honestly, that just looks stupid in everything except fancy marketing junk – thus, I’m capitalizing it, mmkay?).

The next morning I unboxed it and compared it to the Suunto Ambit.  Without question, the Ambit is the nearest non-Garmin competitor to the Fenix.  Beyond that, there are really no other non-Garmin devices that realistically compete with it (interestingly, there are a handful of other Garmin devices that do compete with it, mostly in the hand-held category).

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For the most part, the two are actually fairly similar to size, weight, and build quality.  They both have that ruggedized feel to them.  And they both have approximately a 50hr battery life in GPS-enabled recording mode.

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The Fenix is a bit of a blend between the Garmin handheld hiking units, and the Forerunner.  A marriage of two different product lines.  Thus, if you have a history coming from the endurance (Forerunner) side (like me), you’ll find all sorts of new things in the unit.  And the same is likely true if you came from the opposite handheld unit side.  For example, in addition to all the usual running fields, you’ll also find data aviation fields like Glide Ratio and Ambient Pressure.  Or as another example, you’ll find a very rudimentary basemap (I can’t overstate the rudimentary part):

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What you won’t find though are some of the more advanced running features – for example, interval training or workout creation (but there are alerts and auto lap functionality).  Speaking of comparing it to the Forerunner series, here’s a quick shot between the Fenix, Ambit and the FR910XT:

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I spent the rest of the day in meetings, but I kept the unit on to try and figure it out a bit as I drove around the region.  Mostly just recording random data.  That way come Sunday morning I’d be in good shape for understanding the basics of how to work it.  There’s definitely a little bit of a learning curve to the watch compared to a normal Forerunner.  I’ll give some of my feedback to the Garmin Fenix team, perhaps they’ll be able to change some of the defaults to make it a little more ‘natural’ for us runners looking to cross-over.

Come the next morning my first ‘activity’ was that of a bike ride with my Mom and Dad.  I still have my trusty old Fuji Newest 3.0 bike out here in Seattle, so I rocked that.  I just didn’t feel like dragging my triathlon bike all the way from France for only a ride or two.  Before we set off I mounted the new Joule GPS on the included forward mount that it has.  It includes both the forward mount as well as the rubber band mount, both using the quarter-turn release system (though, incompatible with the Garmin quarter-turn mounts…I’ve tried).  I love that companies are using mounts that I can quickly install (and uninstall) on a bike in a matter of seconds with no zipties required.

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And then up was the Fenix:

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The Fenix can pair with an ANT+ cycling speed/cadence sensor, as well as an ANT+ heart rate monitor.  Additionally, it’ll pair with the ANT+ Tempe, which is their external temperature sensor that’s in the same casing as the ANT+ footpod.  Of most interest though is that this is the first Garmin unit to include Bluetooth Smart (aka, Bluetooth Low Energy, via Bluetooth 4.0) in it.  This is huge, and can’t be overstated.  It also opens up tons of integration options to phones as well.

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As for my ride, it was nice.  A wee bit cool out, but not bad.  Plus, once we got up to speed, it worked out temperature wise on the Centennial Trail.

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The only catch to this trail is they must have gotten a bulk deal on posts to stick in the middle of the trail.  Holy cow, endless posts – just rearing to plunk you when you’re not paying attention.

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Thankfully, this ride I avoided any postal issues.

With our ride complete, we headed back to the house where I’d change quickly and then head out with my brother down to Mt. Si to go for a hike. Mt. Si is a short distance away, but has some nice vertical – topping out at just over 4,000ft (well, there’s conflicting information on this, some put it at under 4,000ft, either way, it’s not a total molehill).  It’s about 8 miles round trip.  I decided to let the Ambit and Fenix battle it out.  I put one on each wrist and began the hike:

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At about the 3.5 mile marker, the distance results were mixed.  Now keep in mind that very often trail markers are incorrect – so there’s no guarantee this particular one is correct in anyone’s favor (Ambit: 3.03, Fenix: 3.73):

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As we continued heading up, the elevation readings stayed pretty close to each other.  Virtually the entire time ascending, they were within 50ft.  Fairly solid.  At the top, they weren’t too far off!

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Now, I say ‘top’, because due to the rain and wind, it wouldn’t have been safe to go any higher up the rock climbing portion, due to the wet rocks.  So, for us, the top was roughly 3,500 feet.  The two units reported a difference of elevation of only 19 feet, while an ascent difference of 143 feet.

Oddly enough, as I took these photos, the sun broke out.  From rain and wind, to a brief hole in the clouds – all in about a 5 minute gap.  Therefor of far more importance are photos of me and my brother:

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Always kinda cool to look down on the valley below:

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With our fingers starting to get a wee bit cold (it was cold out!), we headed on down:

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As we descended the units tracked fairly closely initially.  A short bit later we started trail running our way back down.  I paid less attention to the units then, and more attention to not tripping and falling off the side of the trail (which would be considered poor form).

But I noticed as we got closer to the bottom that the Fenix did take a small detour in the track, which showed up in Garmin Connect.  Of course do keep in mind though that this unit is running a beta software, and is not scheduled to be released until someone in August (which could mean more than a month away).  So it’s something I’ll keep an eye on.  I didn’t see the track detour in my bike ride though, nor have I seen it on all my random driving around with it.

Even with that noted variance on the track, it’s still a heck of a lot closer than the Ambit was (to the ‘listed’ distance of 8.0 miles):

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With that, we headed on home (via Dairy Queen of course), and then had a great home cooked meal – complete with an awesome tasting cake for a certain event next weekend.  But more on that later on in the week.  Don’t want to be getting ahead of ourselves.

Speaking of later this week, we’ve got the Polar/Look Keo Power Meter review coming up on tap too – so plenty of good things on deck.  Thanks for reading, and hope everyone has a great week ahead!

Oh, and as for when a Fenix review – probably in a couple weeks or so, more like mid-September, based on current progress towards final (non-beta) firmware.  Once we get closer to release and some more of the pieces come together on features like smartphone sharing, Tempe integration and what not (not currently in this beta firmware version).  Make sense?

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100 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Hi.
    Thanks for the write-up. It’s going to be interesting to see how these two watches ultimately compare to each other.

    What GPS recording intervals were you using on the two watches?

    And interesting I note that the GC shows the distance as 7.44 mi.

    It’d be nice to see the actual two tracks overlaid to see how they compare. and I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the concerns about in-watch vs filtered vs all-points distance assessments. That can certainly be at play here. These difference often are largest (5%-10%-20% aren’t unheard of) on hikes and when GPS reception is poor.

    Can’t wait to see even more smackdown comparisons! Keep it up DCR.

    Reply
  2. Thanks Anon!

    Both watches were on 1s (1-second) recording.

    I’ve gone ahead and added a public link to the Ambit file as well up above.

    Nice catch on the 7.44 on the Garmin Connect site! Fwiw, the track was uploaded as a GPX file (since that’s how it recorded). In theory it should be duel recording GPX/FIT (per how I set it), but I need to circle back and see what it only did one file. Though, it did include my HR info just fine in the GPX file.

    Reply
  3. I am interested to get one GPS for my mum, she only runs and do trails. I don’t think I would need 910xt or Triathlon watch for that.. Really interesting there’s an Ambit competitor to it. Ambit is currently the best looking GPS watch around (IMO)..

    Reply
  4. Isn’t your brother wearing an AS Roma jersey? If so tell him he is a legend.
    Great pictures and review as always.

    Daniele – Rome – Italy

    Reply
  5. ambit_cracker

    Nice comparison as usual. But with this beta, Fenix is sometimes of by 200m on the way back, ouch.
    Did you also notice that I cracked how Ambit computes distance on the watch:
    link to forums.watchuseek.com
    In the present case, their 2*EHPE algorithm surely cuts some turns, so that the 6.6 miles may well be short by at least 5%.

    Reply
  6. Neat, Awesome as usual.

    Reply
  7. Nice review, been waiting to see this one since I heard about it at first.

    Any idea if it is going to be compatible with ANT+ power meters? Make it a proper all rounder!

    Keep it up Ray and have some nice Parisian pastry’s :)

    Reply
  8. Hi there,
    thanks for doing this comparison!

    I’m a little freaked out though. I’m using the Ambit right now. I love the device, but I’m not in love with the software (movescount). When they announced the fenix, I got excited about the functionality of the Ambit in a Garmin package and decided I would give it a try when it comes out.

    I’m not a techie, so I don’t understand some of the jargon in previous comments, but should I be as concerned as I am right now over the discrepancy in distance computed by the two units? My ambit seems to be right on par with what my old Garmin 310xt was giving me for distance on the same courses.

    Reply
  9. nice preview. thanks.
    as mentionned on FB, do no thesitate to ask garmin team to add basic and custom interval training features ! :)

    trailers not only train on feelings basis and will be happy to find a more rugged version of the 310xt…

    Reply
  10. I’ve always felt posts or bollards on bike paths need markings similar to roadway markings—a miniature version of this.

    And stop signs without the white painted bar on the road are crazy—People see the bar better than the actual stop sign. I looked it up: It is actually called a “Stop Line”.

    Reply
  11. Great to get some already some *real* information about the Fenix – without you, there would have been a horrible time gap between Garmin’s product announcement and the chance to see some reliable information.

    I’ve had a lot of Forerunners devices (101, 201. 301, 305, 310) for running and biking and was thinking about the 910 now (barometer!) – but the Fenix seems to be a cooler device !

    Just a question, will there be the virtual partner functionality available for the Fenix? This is one nice feature on the Forerunners (even when the newer devices do not show kilometer marker anymore)

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    I am new to these GPS watches. But I certainly don’t like the fact that there is such big difference in terms of distance: 7.44 vs 6.66 miles. Looks like Ambit is really too short? But if I zoom in the map closely, I also see that Ambit’s result is closely on the terrain, while Fenix results are often not on the terrain, which also suggests that Fenix is not that accurate?

    Reply
  13. Hi Ray,

    Can you tell us how much it weighs?
    Because we have several informations : 2,9oz (83g) on this link : link to buy.garmin.com
    OR 141g (4,9oz) on this one : link to garmin.ch
    This is a HUGE difference and I really hope it’s 2.9…

    Reply
  14. RE: The distance (since there appears to be some confusion on which unit is most accurate).

    Note above that the official trail distance is listed at 8.00 miles. The Fenix listed it with two different values (7.44 on Garmin connect, and 8.36 on the unit). Whereas the Suunto Ambit listed it as 6.66 miles.

    RE: Weight

    I’ll check into that when I can find a scale (likely later in the week when home), currently travelling

    RE: Virtual Partner, at present, it is not on the unit

    RE: Power meters, at present, it does not connect to PM’s, only to the ANT+ HR strap, and the ANT+ Bike SPD/CAD sensor.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Ray…I’m hoping you will provide more info on the Joule GPS soon, esp some screen shots of what the maps look like. I went with a Garmin 800 recently but I may want to get the Joule for the more accurate power use tracking. Thanks for a great site!

    Reply
  16. I find my Ambit is usually pretty close to the Garmins, but it is almost always at least a little shorter. I find it performs worst trails with a lot of steep sections (most notably on Vancouver’s Grouse Grind).

    Of course I’ve never had a (F)fenix to compare it to!

    Reply
  17. Hi.

    Have you ever used the Foretrex 301 or 401? Can you tell us how they all compare?

    THanks for all your work!

    Reply
  18. Very nice comparison and very nice climb Ray.
    I left a comment on the movescount web site regarding the data recording gap as you were on top of your climb.
    BTW here is a quick insight of the kind of climbs you could do in France:
    link to facebook.com

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    hey Ray what camera did you use to make the pictures?
    Thanks Alex

    Reply
  20. Hi Anon-
    RE: Joule GPS

    Yup, absolutely – definitely will do. Joule GPS maps are fairly similiar to typical breadcrumb trail that you see on most Garmin devices. Meaning, not like Edge 800 with routable maps. More just ‘you’ve been here’ type lines.

    Hi Bobby-
    RE: Foretrex

    I haven’t used either model unfortuntaely. Most of my focus has been on the Forerunner and Edge series, to date anyway.

    Hi Ol Nico-
    RE: Drop in data

    I didn’t stop either watch at the top. But we were there in the same place for about 10-15 minutes. By same place, I’m referring to the very small 2ft by 2ft square of ground which we stayed in near the peak, so virtually no movement.

    And thanks for the pics! Awesome stuff!

    Hi Alex-
    RE: Camera

    The first portion of the photos/post (all with green grass behind) are with a Canon 7D DSLR. The rest of the photos are with a Panasconic Lumix DS3 (check out my Photography tab up top for details/links). Enjoy!

    Reply
  21. Anonymous

    Hi Ray, will the foot pod work with the Fenix? Thanks!

    Reply
  22. No, not at this time. I made the request though as well to the Fenix product team.

    Reply
  23. So what happened to the standarized “roller pin comparison”? ^^

    Reply
  24. It’s in Paris, I’m in Seattle. Fear not, coming soon!

    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Hi,

    Thanks a lot for this review. Do you know if the receiver is Sirfstar IV ? Will it be also compatible with Glonass ?

    It should be great if this watch had a solar charging capability like Casio watches in order not being out of battery.

    Reply
  26. Ray,

    Were you able to test the Fenix Course feature? Courses on the 910XT don’t work very well due to slow map redraw times. Was the Fenix better?

    -Keith

    Reply
  27. Anonymous

    Thanks Ray!
    Alex

    Reply
  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  29. Thanks DCR, as always, for your great reviews!

    I was about to buy the forerunner 610 for running, but then heard about the fenix and I think it could have far greater functionality for me for the great outdoors and I could possible kill 2 birds with one stone here.

    My only concern is that it won’t offer sufficient functionality for running. Virtual Partner, training intervals etc…
    I know this is probably not it’s primary market, but would you mind chatting about the fenix’s potential to offer some of these training functions when you do your review?

    Reply
  30. Anonymous

    Does the Fenix have Training Effect analyzing?

    Reply
  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  32. I love your reviews, keep being detailed :)
    Which alert modes does the fenix offer for the hearth rates (min, max settings + visual, audio, vibration alerts)? An hybride watch between fitness, hiking and montainering is welcome. That is exactly the best product for some people (like me). Ambit might be good, but Movescount is limited compared to Garmin Connect (mandatory internet connection to set the watch and download kills me) and is out of price for the features.

    Reply
  33. or_watching

    Hello. Thanks for the review – two watches in one go = goodness.

    I noticed you said you used one second recording, but the fenix link you graciously provided to GC seems to me to be on smart recording (variously 5-20second intervals for HR and track points).

    I’d love to puzzle out and compare the differences in the two watches reported distances from their actual tracks, and they get reported online. Conspicuously, the Ambit track *looks* best online, yet is furthest from your expected 8miles. Since the Movescount move can’t be downloaded, if you’d like a volunteer to look for an explanation you can PM me the Ambit xml, to or_watching at WUS.

    Reply
  34. Very interesting – valid point. Looking at the two modes, one was supposed to be 1s recording. I’ll circle back to product team and find out. I know that they are still adding features in daily (I get near-daily firmware updates), for example the dual FIT/GPX option is forthcoming. This may just be a beta issue.

    I’ll dig up my Ambit and see if I can post the XML.

    Reply
  35. ambit_cracker

    Starting from the Ambit track, I did recompute the distance to be 6.4 miles in Openrunner trying to stay as close as possible to the real track followed. Maybe some sharp turns are cut-off, but by no way did you “hike” 8 miles. The Ambit seems pretty close to that, the Fenix beta still needs quite some updates to get close ;-)

    Reply
  36. I hear what you’re saying – but every page I find shows 4 miles each way (8 miles round trip). Heck, even the mile markers on the the trail support that. You do have to remember at nearly 1,000 vertical feet per mile, it’s all constant switch backs, and pretty steep ones at that.

    Looking at Garmin Connect, I see tons of folks in the 7.5 to 8.0 range. The vast majority between 7.6 and 7.8. Of course, you never know exactly where folks went when they got to the top (there’s a bunch of options there). Either way, 6.6 would seem short by all calculations and everything I can find on the interwebs.

    Also remember that no matter how many times one recomputes the trail – if you don’t have accurate data to being with, you won’t get more distance, since I suspect it’s cutting off corners.

    Reply
  37. or_watching

    Hello again.

    Happy to continue this dialog in the other forum if that’s what Ray prefers. Allows for posting images, etc.

    Two parts to the discussion
    1. Track correctness
    a. Ambit matches quite well to NW Trails and to other hiker’s .gpx tracks.
    b. Fenix uphill also matches well.
    c. Fenix downhill the lower portion starts to have 100meter+ errors and several 200meter “jumps” where it got back on track.

    2. In watch distance reporting
    a. Ambit will for sure under-report using 2*EHPE method id’ed by ambit_craker. 5-10% wouldn’t surprise me for a forested hike (higher EHPE) with switch backs. Easily shown with the XML file.
    b. Fenix is a longer discussion: unknowns, observed track errors, DCRs actual distance, etc.

    As for the actual distance… my 2cents = 7.4 miles. It’s 3.9mi to the very top (Haystack) per hand-routing e-maps and other GPX’es. And DCR seems to have stopped 0.2 miles short = 3.7 each way.

    Adding 0.1mi adder due to the elevation gain+loss. So 2*3.7 + 2*0.2 + 0.1 = 7.9 RT which is very close to the 8mi markers.

    Reply
  38. Hmm … both the sunuto and the fenix have ultra long battery life …. but only if they take sparse GPS readings … the 1 sec gps readings seem to put them in the same battery range as other watches, e.g. timex global trainer or garmin FR610.

    SO. Could we get ultra long times from the FR610 or timex GT if they offered a firmware update to take fewer readings?????

    Reply
  39. Good stuff OR_Watching, especially around the assumptions at the haystack.

    Frank-

    It’s an interesting question. We see that watches like the Timex Run Trainer and even the FR310XT/FR910XT with the GPS off can go a long time. The FR310XT/910XT go about 55 hours with GPS off and 1-second recording. And the Timex Run Trainer goes well over 100hrs with GPS-off and 1s recording (it has a display limitation at 99hrs, otherwise it would probably go about 500hrs).

    But how does that translate to 1s recording changes? Well, in general the change in recording rate doesn’t help battery much. It’s actually the change in sampling rate that helps battery (recording rate helps storage).

    And that’s what the Ambit (and presumably Fenix) does differently. It tweaks how often the GPS samples, and factors around it being on. I’ll ask the Fenix team how this does this.

    One other minor point of FYI, as noted above – it is a beta firmware that this was recorded from. Since I recorded this, I’ve received a new beta firmware drop literally every day, often with tons of things fixed/changed, which is the primary reason I’m waiting for a full review until that settles down some. Btw, nothing changed for the bad – just connecting the pipes behind the scenes on items not yet completed. Improvements in accuracy is one item that’s been on the list in some fashion or another near daily.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  40. For a mountainering/hiking/trekking watch, battery time is important, but recharge time/mAs is premium because we will have to recharge in the wildeness anyway with external batteries and/or solar panel. How would compare fenix to ambit in terms of mAs required to get a full charge? Do Suunto or Garmin provide this information?

    Reply
  41. Anonymous

    I am a runner and occasional hiker who is currently shopping for a gps watch, and the fenix is sounding pretty good. Please relay to the Garmin folks one more of your readers who is requesting more of the advanced running features like intervals, pace and HRM alerts, and foot pod support.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  42. Thankyou thankyou thankyou! All that just for posting some info about the Fenix that isn’t from Garmin. I have 3 Garmin units (Edge 800, Forerunner 610 and Oregon 450) but have been waiting for Garmin to release a unit that can more or less cover the functions of all 3 units – looks like the Fenix fits the bill. I don’t use a foot pod or ANT+ power so no issue there (MTB, where power isn’t quite as much use as on the road … yes, I know some will disagree with me there).

    Looking forward to your Fenix review/write-up.

    Reply
  43. Anonymous

    Thanks Ray! The foot pod not working is a deal breaker for me so I appreciate you mentioning the missing feature to the dev team. Please keep us informed as to what they say when you do the full review.

    Reply
  44. Hm, having seen these documents (Manual 1) here: link to fjallfoss.fcc.gov
    …I fear, there’s another point (first wss the absence of the virtual partner) I won’t like: there is no start/stop key for doing a run?! As I understand it, you have to press a button sequence (like enter, down, enter, enter, down, down, enter) to start the stopwatch, am I right?

    Reply
  45. I would have the same question as FourBeer, did you try out the course navigation _and_ does it actually work?
    I’m still very disappointed with the FR910XT in this regards. Besides having better battery life than my old FR305 (but 20h for me is still not enough) the two features that lead to buying the 910XT was “more accurate” altimeter with display of accumulated ascent and course navigation (the Ambit cannot do this).
    I really would give the fenix a try if this will work reliable.

    And one more question about battery life, with current firmware what options do you have to set recording intervall? I would really hope to have the option to customize the recording … or more precisely … the sampling interval of the GPS module, in a custom range (eg. from 1sec up to 5min). I even submitted this to garmins idea page.
    Still looking forward for someone to release the ultimate watch for ultra-distance trail runners ;)

    Reply
  46. As of that day, the course navigation functionality wasn’t fully implemented (it came in on firmware this past weekend) – so it wasn’t possible to really test it out then. I could download the courses to it easily, but until now haven’t been able to run through them.

    As for recording intervals – you have two options, a regular option and an ultra option. My understanding is that these aren’t yet set in stone, as far as how they operate. I suspect we’ll eventually see 1-s recording and then something akin to ultra-recording like we see on the Ambit.

    Reply
  47. Anonymous

    In the Ambit they are going to implement more intervals for GPS recording
    So the battery life can be adjusted to the activity

    Reply
  48. Alan

    Great review! You know more about this watch already than anybody at Garmin Cust Sup. Any idea whether the fenix will allow a user supplied input of Vo2max to allow a more accurate calorie count than can be specified with just the typical age/weight/activity level inputs? I would like to use this watch to replace a Polar. Read your review of New Leaf – seems like way overkill, just let me input Vo2max. This is the primary coefficient (along with weight) for a reasonably accurate calorie count estimation.

    Reply
  49. I don’t expect to see it allow you supply a VO2Max value. On that other New Leaf post, there are a few folks though that have posted New Leaf profile generators – which allow you to do something similiar if you have the full VO2Max test information.

    Reply
  50. Alan

    Thanks – I downloaded the app. Unfortunately, it looks as though the Fenix will not be supported by New Leaf according to them. Sounds like you have the ear of the Fenix developers. Calorie burn that is not HR based is worthless. Tell them to use the standard calorie burn formulas based on HR, VO2max, weight and max HR if the unit is receiving HR data. It is a very simple linear equation and fairly accurate all the way up to the anaerobic threshold – the so called Flex Region. For those that don’t want to enter their own VO2max, Garmin can default it with standard formulas based age, sex, activity level.

    Reply
  51. I wouldn’t nessessarily trust the NewLeaf folks on this one – only because in general I’ve found they rarely communicate well with the Garmin teams (if at all). Of course, communication is a two-way street. In other words, don’t count that chicken as dead yet – see what ends up in the final firmware*.

    Keep in mind that every Garmin unit does HR-based algorithms for calorie calcs. Not VO2Max of course, but not horrible either.

    *I can’t reiterate enough that they are releasing very frequent firmware updtaes – so it’s literally gobs of feature adds being enabled/implemented in each one as they wrap up development. So anything seen above in my earlier post around accuracy should definitely be taken with a grain of salt until it’s final. Since virtually every firmware update I’ve seen notes improves related to GPS accuracy.

    Reply
  52. Alan

    Oh – I forgot to mention something about GPS accuracy. When comparing accuracy between two watches, wear them on the same wrist, or have your hiking partner wear it on the same side as you. GPS accuracy is primarily dependent on how many satellites are in view as well as their geometry. Shielding from your body or a mountain can greatly effect this and you want shielding the same on both watches under test. On a bike it should be better due to mounting location on the bars, plus with a speed sensor and the built-in compass they can augment the GPS solution and do some dead reckoning NAV when necessary. Having the antenna on your wrist that can be in many orientations has got to be a tough problem for them.

    Reply
  53. I think the Fenix watch could finally get me to upgrade from my FR305 after four years. I hope that the final version would include workout options/interval training and the virtual partner. I was thinking that the Suunto Ambit might work, but in my new watch I want vibration alerts, which the Ambit doesn’t appear to have and couldn’t be easily added with a firmware upgrade. Your reviews are always thorough and detailed. Thank you!

    Reply
  54. Crispin

    Firstly, can I just say that this preview is brilliant and the following comments extremely useful. I absolutely love my Garmin 405cx for recording my running and other fitness training activities (I also have an FR60). But I have always worried about the 405cx’s robustness and battery life when trying to record a day out hiking and scrambling in mountain areas (and that the 405cx doesn’t show OSGB grids references – I know the 310xt and 910xt do). So I’m really interested in the Fenix; it seems to tick every box for me. Just one thing I can’t find an answer for anywhere, is whether the Fenix will use the Firstbeat algorithm for calculating calories from heart rate. My 405cx (Firstbeat) is way more accurate than the FR60 (old Garmin method), so I’m really hoping the Fenix has Firstbeat.

    Reply
  55. Thanks for the review/preview. Looking forward to the full one. The Tempe sensor should have barometric readings as well. Would make it possible to put the fenix underneath your jacket. Guess if you did that now it would screw the barometric readings.

    Just a little thought on the length 6.6 vs 8.36: does the 6.6 include the height or is it just the horizontal movement?

    Reply
  56. Hi,
    via bluetooth, is it already possible to use the fenix as simple GPS mouse and connect to a laptop or mobile phone? If not you think this will/should be supported?
    thx, and keep up with your great in-depth reviews.
    andreas

    Reply
  57. Hi All-

    Just a quick update regarding when a review might be coming (since I’ve received a nubmer of questions on it).

    On the Fenix Review – once I’ve got the final firmware. There were changes made to the Fenix hardware over the past several weeks to address some altitude issues. Meanwhile, software is still being updated weekly (usually now software drops on Friday). As a result, they are sending over a new hardware unit next week. Once the software is ‘done’, then I’ll go ahead and start putting together the review.

    A swag at this point says early September – but it’s hard to say.

    Hi Alan-

    True, there are some differences there. Though, I would argue that we shouldn’t see anything appreciable between the units..well, hopefully anyway. :)

    Hi Andy-

    At this point, it appears the Fenix Bluetooth connect is primary used for sharing routes/waypoints/tracks with phones, but beyond that it’s a bit of a mystery.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  58. Here in North Carolina, it is difficult to find trail maps of all the state, county, and city parks where I bike and hike. Even the topo maps for Garmin’s trail GPS receivers are missing most of the trails and bike greenways. The one source that seems to have all these paths is OpenCycleMap. There are a few great iPhone apps that can pre-cache OpenCycleMap for use offline, but the iPhone’s GPS receiver has occasional troubles acquiring a fix with no cellular data.

    I’m interested in GPS receivers that can feed live position information to smartphones for use by any app, such as the new Garmin GLO and the Bad Elf GPS Pro. With these two devices, the phone is freed from the battery-hogging GPS duty and need not hang out in harm’s way to get a good signal.

    I’ve contacted Garmin to ask if the fenix will feed such live position information over its Bluetooth connection. They said it would not. As you have a contact on the development team, could you put in a good word for us folks that like to know which way to turn at intersections?

    Many thanks for this and all you do!
    Jeff

    Reply
  59. I commented earlier about the bike path “obstruction” markings. I was perusing the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and I found this figure which specifically for bike bath obstructions: link to mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them actually painted on a bike path.

    Reply
  60. How many views for time, miles and so on does the fenix show. The Ambit kann show 8 or 9 different displays. Is this the same at fenix as FR305?

    Reply
  61. Anonymous

    Great review as always! Thanks DCR!

    At the moment I am user of Garmin 405, Suunto Core and Suunto D4, anyway, I will buy new Fenix, 100%.
    But it would be very useful if Fenix, like Core, will have DEPTH METER. Since Fenix already has pressure sensor like Core and it is WR to 100 meters, pressure sensor apparently withstand the high pressure and it probably offers some readings at least at depths up to 10, 20 meters, which (with adequate algorithm) could be converted into depth measurements.
    In this case for all my activitie I will need only two tools: Fenix ​​and D4.

    Primus

    Reply
  62. Just noticed an update on the buy.garmin site on the availability of the Fenix. It’s been say “Ships during the 3rd Qtr” since it was announced. Today it says – “Order processing time is 5 – 8 weeks”

    So looks like late September to late October from Garmin?

    Reply
  63. is it possible to use Intervall Trainings with the fenix e.g FR305?

    Reply
  64. No, not at this time. Sorry!

    Reply
  65. I am seeing on some pre-order websites a Sept. 30 availability date. Any word from Garmin yet? I know you stated last possible early Sep. I can handle waiting that long, but until the end of the month. I am not sure I can wait that long especially if Suunto ever cut the price of the Ambit before the Garmin release.
    Thanks

    Reply
  66. It’s always hard to say, but I would think at this point early Sept would be tough. Late September seems quite dooable.

    Reply
  67. No interval training:(
    It’s a really pitty … i don’t need swimming features of 910xt, but autonomy and alti-baro are killer features to upgrade from my 305
    So i can go for a 310, but will lack altitude accuracy and battery life…

    So please Garmin add the « training running features »

    Reply
  68. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  69. giannis

    dear sir
    i would like to know if fenix can be used in the pool or in the sea for measuring distance and time.
    I am a hiker but also run and swim much.
    thanks for your (GREAT)work

    giannis
    greece

    Reply
  70. I’ve actually ordered one of these clocks myself now. I didn’t get the first batch which will arrive within 7. September (only 5 clocks where given to the Norwegian Garmin Dep.). I did, however, get to the second batch that will arrive at 20. September. I also ordered a Tempe-sensor and that will arrive together with the watch. For those who where lucky getting the first batch, the Tempe sensor would be sent within 20. So it seems that they are running the sensor a bit later than the watch.

    Reply
  71. Really looking forward to this, hopefully it doesn’t take long to hit the UK so I can try one out and finally make my decision on it.

    Reply
  72. Andy

    Just received Garmin Fenix yesterday.
    Still need to familiarize with the interface as it is quite different from the running series.

    Reply
  73. Indeed, very different.

    Curious (and for the benefit of others) – what company/store did you order from?

    Reply
  74. Hi!

    I just love your reviews, their are always helpful.

    Does the fenix have the Training effect (TE) data field?

    Reply
  75. Andy

    I bought it from a local store in Hong Kong.
    Sold out in 2 days.

    Reply
  76. Anonymous

    I’m looking to use the watch primarily for climbing/hiking and either seems to fit the bill. I am looking forward to your review. When are you finally going to post it?

    Reply
  77. Theo

    For the benefit of all fenix funs an ongoing review link to forums.watchuseek.com

    Reply
  78. Theo

    For the benefit of all fenix funs an ongoing review link to forums.watchuseek.com

    Reply
  79. Anonymous

    Hello all. I noticed that REI took off the backorder note for the Fenix. I tried ordering it and it shipped today!

    Reply
  80. Hi,
    Just in case you still can pass some info to the Garmin team.
    1. There is lack of information in Track -> Details, avg pace would be nice. The best if we can customize that screen.

    Reply
  81. Anonymous

    Thanks for all the great info on the new Fenix. I ordered one the other day from GPScity, and it is on a fedex truck as I write this, Yeah! Couple of questions that I didn’t see answered:

    1: Does the Fenix (or any GPS unit) only log horizontal distance, or does it take elevation into account? IE, if you hike 4 miles horizontal distance and gain 3 miles of elevation, your actual distance is 5 miles.

    2: Does the Fenix have customize-able screens like the 910XT?

    3: How hard is it to pause a track?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  82. Anonymous

    Regarding your three questions, I can answer two:

    2: Does the Fenix have customize-able screens like the 910XT?
    Yes, it has many options to either customize an existing screen and/or create new ones from scratch. You can then group screen/functions within profiles.

    3: How hard is it to pause a track?
    I believe it’s a total of two key presses to pause a track. Same to resume.

    Reply
  83. Anonymous

    great review

    got mine a couple days ago from gpscity and returned a 2 week old ambit based on the review.

    big advantage on the fenix over ambit for me was comfort on my wrist, fenix much better fit on my small wrist.

    one disadvantage vs ambit is the confusing screen setups, sure wish you could customize settings on garmin connect similar to suunto movescount. menu settings in watch is not at all intitiutive.

    Reply
  84. got my hands on a Fenix at REI today. I’m a long time Garmin FR user, but bought and have been using an Ambit for a couple of months. I don’t know how much this is worth, but I only needed about 30 seconds with the Fenix on my wrist to know I was staying with the Ambit. (I was ready to buy If I loved the Fenix!) I’m sure the Fenix is going to be succesful, and if the Ambit didn’t exist I would own one right now. However, the Fenix just didn’t compare to the build quality/feel of the Ambit.
    (The strap is pretty friggin cool though!)

    Also, as an ex-garmin Premium HR Strap user, I have to say the Suunto strap is much better. NO Chaffing! I had a scab on my chest for a month after running the Boston Marathon with the Garmin strap. Just did a 27 mile trail run the other day with absolutely no chaffing issues whatsoever.

    The only thing I truly wish is that the Ambit had vibrating alerts. Obviously that’s not going to happen because it would require a hardware change, but Suunto’s 3 (planned) updates put my mind at ease.

    Anyway, just my thoughts after handling both watches.

    Reply
  85. Got mine today. Software version 2.20

    Reply
  86. Anonymous

    tHi,
    I am using FR 310XT for years and was wondering, how long the battery of the FENIX lasts, if one uses the same GPS sampling frequency as is built-in the FR 310XT.

    Reply
  87. Chas Sayers

    I’d like to see Garmin update the Forerunner series to support the Tempe sensor.

    I use the 610 for running and cycling and temperature data would be useful :D

    Reply
  88. Philip

    When are you going to give us an updated report on the latest version?

    Reply
  89. Hi!
    How would you compare Fenix to the FR610. Will I have the same basic functionality?
    - user defined screens?
    - defined pages to scroll/click through?
    - autoscroll function?

    Since I am slowing getting older what about readability and font size?

    Thanks for your input!
    Chris

    Reply
  90. Anonymous

    Hi, great first impressions BTW.

    I would really appreciate it if you could clarify:

    - What are the running metrics and options? (Eg pace, speed, distance, time taken)

    - How is the logging like? (Can I save only total distance, speed and time taken without saving track data into the memory? I want to use less memory)

    - How is the data handling like? If the memory is full, would the watch overwrite the last record? Or disable saving data altogether.

    Thanks for your responses ^^

    Reply
  91. Anonymous

    Hi Ray,
    Trying to find confirmation if the fenix works with Bluetooth 4.0 hrm’s like the Wahoo and Polar hrm’s?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  92. No, not at this time. It definitely could down the road – but today it’s purely for uploading data to the iOS BaseCamp app.

    Reply
  93. Anonymous

    Thanks Ray. Looks like I’ll wait for the 4iiii Ant+/Bluetooth 4.0 hrm so I can get data to both iPhone and Fenix without the Ant+ dongle…..

    Reply
  94. Radovan

    Hi,
    thanks for your reviews. Based on your review last year I purchased Garmin Forerunner 210. A few days ago the watch strap has broken – I realized it is not possible to replace the watchstrap at 210. Therefore I am looking at Fenix. Please test the ability to seek geocaches with it. I am also thinking about replacing my old GPSMap 60CS by Fenix.

    Regards,

    Radovan

    Reply
  95. Question to those already using the Fenix. How is data transfer to/from the watch handled?
    I can read it’s USB? But how does it look to the PC, is the Traing Center or anything like this required or does it show up as “normal” usb storage device?

    I’m asking because I’m not using any Windows PC and wonder if this gets any easier than with the 910xt for example (where I can get activities off the watch under Linux but wasn’t able to upload a course without booting windows).

    Andreas

    Reply
  96. one further question, in the change history of fenix 2.4 there’s something about UltraTrac update interval.
    Does this mean you really have now more than two choices (1sec vs. 60sec) to specify recorded GPS track accuracy vs. battery life?

    andreas

    Reply
  97. Hi All-

    Just wanted to circle back and ensure everyone knows that my full in-depth review of the Fenix has been published here:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    In order to go ahead and keep the technical questions in one place, I’m going to close comments on this post, and ask that anything else be clarified in the other post (it helps to benefit others trying to find answers down the road).

    Thanks!

    Reply
  98. Logan

    I live at the base of mt Si, it’s pretty cool to see you in my neck of the woods. The weather up here makes for many wet and cold rides. The watches look pretty cool

    Reply
  99. Marco Baiocco

    Congratulations on the red soccer tshirt! ;)

    Reply
  100. Andre

    Virtual partner (speed, pace) was added with the August 20th update (v. 3.50).

    Reply

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