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Hands-on: Garmin’s new Fenix3 HR with optical HR, new Fenix3 bands, major software update

Garmin-Fenix3HR-ContinousHR-Page2

Update! My Fenix3 HR In-Depth Review has now been published (click here)! You can swing over to that post to read all the details!

Today at CES Garmin has introduced three new fitness devices, first up is the new Fenix3 with optical HR (called the Fenix3 HR), along with many new variants thereof.  Then there’s the Tactix Bravo, which is a Fenix3 sibling of sorts.  In addition, they also introduced a heads up display – the Varia Vision, which I discuss in this separate post.

Within that Fenix3 HR and greater Fenix3 family, they’ve added a small flotilla of other new Fenix3 band variations – roughly on par with the numbers required for a complete Brady Bunch re-union special.

Finally, for all existing Fenix3 folks, you’re about to get a slew of software updates adding in a bunch of new features, which I’ll discuss a few sections from now.

The Fenix3 HR:

Garmin-Fenix3HR-BackPod3

(Note: Non-final units shown in my pics, might be some slight cosmetic differences in final production units)

When Garmin introduced their in-house ‘Elevate’ optical HR sensor this past fall, it was only a matter of time until the sensor found its way into higher end units.  While I thought that’d probably be more like spring rather than CES, it’s nonetheless here now starting with the Fenix3 HR.

The sensor is identical to that of the Garmin FR235, which was introduced this past fall.  It’s just simply now plopped into the back of the Fenix3 instead.

Garmin-Elevate-Family2

This means that it not only tracks HR data during most workout types, it also does it 24×7 as part of continual HR monitoring and recording.  You can see below the first portion of my day was relatively calm, and then I went for a run, where it spikes up.

Garmin-Fenix3HR-Continous-Evening2

That in turn allows Garmin to add the ‘Intensity Minutes’ widget to the Fenix3, since it’s able to monitor your HR and when it spikes into the realm of ‘intense’.

You’ll remember that intensity minutes are tracked over the course of the week with the aim of getting you to 150 minutes of intense exercise, per various health organizations guidelines that recommend 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week.

So what’s the battery and weight penalty on this?  Well, here’s a side by side of the two non-metal/non-Titanium variants for size. You’ll see they don’t get any chubbier in width.

Garmin-Fenix3HR-Fenix3-FrontCompare

Meanwhile, it does get a bit heavier, about 6g.

Garmin-Fenix3-Regular-Weight

Garmin-Fenix3HR-Weight

The battery comes in slightly lower than the existing Fenix3.  So the regular GPS-on mode goes from 20hrs to 16hrs, the UltraTrac GPS mode goes from 50hrs to 40hrs, and the 24/7 non-GPS watch mode goes from 6 weeks to 3 weeks.

There’s currently only one color (grey) of the Fenix3 HR.  You can however also get it in a ‘bundle’ version, which includes the HRM-RUN HR strap.

Why would you need the HR strap you ask?  Well, that’s because certain capabilities require the higher level of detail currently only available via HR straps, specifically around heart rate variability (HRV), or HRM-RUN/TRI metrics.  Those features would be:

  • Specific Running Dynamics Metrics:  Stride Length, Ground Contact Time Balance and Vertical Ratio
  • Lactate Threshold, Performance Condition, and Stress Score (Note: VO2Max is fine with the optical sensor)

Without a HR strap, those features will not work.

In addition, while in swimming mode, you may need a separate strap (such as the HRM-SWIM or HRM-TRI).  Right now Garmin hasn’t fully determined/decided if the optical sensor will give accurate enough data in the water (something most other companies are also on the fence about).  So they’re saying they’ll likely go out with it turned off by default, but again, are still working through tests on the accuracy front there.

Before we get into a first run, here’s a quick overview of the Fenix3 I put together:

Ok, let’s dive into the first run.

Initial Use Impressions:

Garmin-Fenix3-HRM-TRI

So how well does the optical HR sensor work in general?  Well, we know from the FR235 that Garmin’s Elevate optical sensor in the FR235 is generally good, but still has some quirks.  However, in order to figure out if those quirks have been resolved, that’s going to take some time in terms of weeks of testing across lots of different conditions (colder weather, intervals, downhill’s etc…).  And unfortunately, I just haven’t had weeks with the watch.  But rather, just one run.

For that roughly 5K run I simply did a fairly normal loop I use within the city.  I started off with about a mile-long warm-up, followed by a handful of short but hard intervals and slightly varying intensities.  The goal with these intervals is to see how quickly a device tracks the HR aspect.  For these comparisons, I was simply using a Garmin HRM-TRI.

Note again, this was a BETA device with BETA firmware, some period of time away from release.  Thus, stuff could get better or worse.

Overall it tracked steady-state fairly well.  On intervals, I see about a 7-9 second lag before it catches up and tracks.  There’s one moment after the 3rd interval that it seems to be flustered for a moment before catching back up.

image

All in, this is roughly consistent with what I saw with the FR235 optical HR sensor.  Since this is a shorter run than most of my runs, the lag due to the scale looks larger than it would on a 60-90 minute long run.

As for the GPS track, it looked mostly good.  It didn’t have time to do a full 15-20 minute GPS soak prior to start, so you might get a tiny bit more improvement there.  But the track is within a few meters of everywhere I ran, even correctly getting some of the bump-outs as I burned time at stop-lights and such.  One section though for a few hundred meters it went a bit across the road.

image

If you’d like to look at the Garmin Connect activity from that 5K run, you can do so here.

Again, it’s too soon to know how accurate the Fenix3HR optical HR sensor is across a wide range of activities or environmental conditions.  Once I’ve had a final production unit for a while, I’ll be in a better position to say.  Further, at this time Garmin states there’s been no additional physical hardware changes to the unit compared to existing Fenix3 watches.  This means no changes to either GPS or other performance aspects.

New Fenix3 Bands & Editions:

Garmin-Fenix3-Titanium-Front

In addition to the Fenix3 HR, Garmin has put out a few new editions of the Fenix3 at CES (adding to the already sizable stable of Fenix3 variants).  However, before we do that, we need a brief primer on decoding the Fenix3 names.  In reality, it’s super simple and is kinda like building a sandwich:

Prefix: Fenix3 (all of them have this)
Optical HR? Yes or no, if so, add ‘HR’
Sapphire Glass? Yes or no, if so, add ‘Sapphire’
Body Trim Type: Add Rose Gold, Gray, Silver
Band Type: Applicable to Titanium, Metal, Leather, and Nylon/Fabric.

First up is the new Fenix3 Titanium.  Now some of you may be wondering how this is different than the pre-existing Fenix3 Sapphire with metal band.  Well, this one uses a lighter Titanium band versus the heavier metal band.  If you’ve picked up the existing Sapphire edition, you’ll know it’s beastly heavy.  Whereas this is super light-weight, and honestly feels like plastic (but it’s Titanium):

Garmin-Fenix3-Titanium-ClaspClosed

Here’s two shots comparing them side by side.  The lighter silver colored one is Titanium, whereas the darker one is the Sapphire with metal band unit.

Garmin-Fenix3-Sapphire-TitaniumCompare2

Garmin-Fenix3-Sapphire-TitaniumCompare1

Like the existing metal band, it has a clasp closing mechanism:

Garmin-Fenix3-Titanium-Clasp-Open1

The band requires a typical standard watch link remover tool in the event you want to change the band size (just like the existing metal one, and really all metal watch bands today).

Finally note that the bezel is indeed silver-colored Titanium, however the watch body is grey-colored.  Also note that the unit does come with an additional black silicone strap (identical to the black silicone strap seen above in the HR version).

Garmin-Fenix3-Titanium-Band-Pod

Next, we’ve got the new leather and nylon straps (though Garmin calls them ‘fabric’ straps).

Garmin-Fenix3-Bands-LeatherNylon-Front

Note these are technically not NATO straps, because NATO straps are 20mm wide, and these are about 25mm wide.

Garmin-Fenix3-NotNATO-Straps

These use a slip-through system where you install these new poles on the watch, allowing you to quickly slide different straps in or out in a few seconds without any tools:

Garmin-Fenix3-Bands-AllNew

Here’s the various straps:

Garmin-Fenix3-Bands-AllNew2

Officially these are:

Brown Leather strap ($59)
Black nylon strap ($24)
Olive nylon strap ($24)

Finally, there are two additional new straps that I don’t have photos of:

Lime green silicone strap ($39)
Blue silicone strap ($39)

All of which add to the existing Fenix3 variants:

Fenix3 Gray
Fenix3 Gray with HRM-RUN Strap
Fenix3 Silver/Red
Fenix3 Silver/Red with HRM-RUN Strap
Fenix3 Sapphire Glass with HRM-RUN Strap
Fenix3 Sapphire Glass with Metal Band
Fenix3 Sapphire Glass with Leather Band
Fenix3 Rose Gold with Sapphire Glass
Fenix3 HR Gray with Sapphire Glass
Fenix3 HR Gray with Sapphire Glass with HRM-RUN Strap
Fenix3 Sapphire Glass Grey with Leather Strap
Fenix3 Sapphire Glass with Titanium Band

Got all that?  Don’t worry, I can’t keep track either.  Here’s a video I put together that attempts to explain it further.

What I am able to track is the steep price for the HR models of the new Fenix3.  The cheapest Fenix3 HR version costs $599 (does include Sapphire glass though).  $100 more than the existing Fenix3.  Oh, what’s that – you wanted the Titanium band with the Sapphire glass instead?  That’ll set you back $799!  Save your pennies folks, cause flashiness doesn’t come cheap these days.  At least you’re not Canadian (well, sorry if you are), because the list price for that version is $1,199.99.  You could have purchased almost an entire township for less than that, and still had money leftover to go to Tim Horton’s.

New Fenix3 Software For Everyone:

IMG_3859

Next, Garmin is rolling out a software update that will add a number of new sports profiles and new features to the Fenix3 units.  While much of this was quietly released to the Fenix3 beta channel over the past few weeks, there are a few new items here.  Rather than belabor each point individually, here’s a complete list of all of the new functions.

New Sport Mode – Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) This can also measure/record stroke related metrics as well.
New Sport Mode – Golf: Including ability to download some 40,000 golf courses
New Sport Mode – Rowing: Can measure stroke relate metrics as well.
Gen2 Running Dynamics: This adds the new Vertical Ratio & Ground Contact Time Balance metrics that were found on the recently released FR630
Lactate Threshold Testing: This is for runners, allowing you to determine your lactate threshold heart rate & pace (also introduced on FR630)
Stress Score: Determines overall level of stress (also introduced on FR630)
Performance Condition: Gives you a “performance readiness” indicator towards the beginning of each workout (also introduced on FR630)
Music Control: This allows you to control the music on your phone.  It does not store music on the Fenix 3 device itself (also introduced on FR230/235/630).
Audio Lap Alerts: This allows you to get audio alert readouts of lap splits from your phone, or Bluetooth headphones if connected to phone (also introduced on FR230/235/630).
Last Swim/Bike/Run Widget: This new widget makes it easy to glance at your most recent workout for each category with out diving into the history sections.
‘My Day’ Widget: Sorta a compilation of your schedule for the day.
Do Not Disturb Feature: Allows you to separately mute your watch for things like smartphone notifications and such.
New Tactical & Jumpmaster Apps: These are items previously found on the Tactix series of watches. (Note: Previously at launch Garmin stated these would only be available on the Tactix Bravo once they hit production, however they have changed their mind and will also be available on the Fenix3/Fenix3 HR.)

All of these should be available immediately, or, if you’ve been using the Fenix3 beta builds over the past few weeks, they’ve mostly been there too.

Tactix Bravo:

Garmin-Fenix3-FamilyWithTactix

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because later today I’ll have a deeper post on it.  But for now the key thing to know is that Garmin has also released a new version of their Tactix watch, now called the Tactix Bravo.

This unit replaced the older Fenix1-based Tactix watch, which was focused on the military & law enforcement crowd.  The key attributes of that watch was a night vision goggle (NVG) friendly display, as well as being non-reflective for light.  Additionally, it has more software options such as a Jumpmaster mode and a Tactical mode.

Otherwise, it’s more or less your normal Fenix3 watch.  It shares almost all the same firmware options.  Which, is ironically why I don’t have a post here at the moment – since all the Tactix Bravo units I’ve had hands-on time with were running Fenix3 firmware, versus Bravo firmware.  Later today I’ll get more hands-on with the right units and be able to get ya proper photos.  So hang tight!

(Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other goodness going on today)

Summary:

Garmin-Fenix3-FamilyPhoto

It’s clear that Garmin has thrown everything into making the Fenix3 line as expansive as possible, appealing to as many people as possible.  We see that manifesting itself in the numerous designs for not only the watches themselves, but the straps too.

The addition of the Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor into the Fenix3 is a logical next step for the company, and hardly one that wasn’t expected.  However, I figured the company might spend a bit more time to smooth out some of the wrinkles in their technology first.  It’s possible that given the Fenix3 HR release time-frame is officially “Q1” (meaning, anytime between now and March 31st, 2016), that this added time will allow them to sort through those items.  It’s also important to note that if you’ve been using the Vivosmart HR, that the Fenix3 seems to behave closer to the FR235 than the Vivosmart HR, since it has more watch surface area to cover light coming in than the Vivosmart HR does.

Still, it’ll definitely be an interesting product to watch going forward and to see the technology mature.  I’d also expect this will force both Polar and Suunto into putting optical HR in their higher end units going forward as well.  Competition is always good for the industry, innovation, and most importantly, for consumers.

FYI: You can now pre-order the new Fenix3 HR, Fenix3 Titanium (and the new straps) or Tactix Bravo units from Clever Training.  In doing so you support the site here, I appreciate it!

With that – thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all of the DCR CES 2016 coverage, as well as a slew of updates that were only seen on Twitter.  It was a crazy busy week!

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773 Comments

  1. Is Fenix 3 compatible with ANT+ FE-C?

    Can it read the ANT+ power data, velocity and cadence of a hometrainer?

    Thank you.

    • No, it does not support ANT+ FE-C (only the Edge 520 and any day now, Edge 1000, do). However, perhaps someone will come along and make an ANT+ FE-C app for the wearables line.

      Do keep in mind that aside from Elite, all of the rest of the ANT+ FE-C trainers out there also transmit over standard ANT+ sensor types, so the Fenix3/HR can easily pick those up instead.

    • Hello.

      Today I was Able to test the “Elite Qubo Digital Smart B + ” I could connect to an Ant + dongle of my Garmin Swim to Zwift program and all data is read .
      I have found it impossible to link Fenix ​​3 with the power meter Which is what interested me,
      Is there any inconsistency That Is not Reported by the manufacturers?

  2. Nick

    Cotswold Outdoor CS:

    So last Tuesday we had this email through ‘Garmin have sent through an update on the Fenix 3 HR E3312132. Unfortunately they haven’t managed to ship these prior to Chinese and are now expecting delivery the w/c the 22nd of Feb at the earliest. And unfortunately still can’t confirm what the UK allocation of stock will be’.

  3. adels.ng

    Will there be a HR version in rose gold?

  4. Robert H

    Just got my Fenix 3 HR on Friday, let it update and I though everything is good but it is saying software version 2.20. Maybe I missing something but isn’t the new version 6.80? Can someone shed some insight?

    • That’s the correct version. I don’t know why they dropped down to 2.x vs 6.x, but I’ll poke around and see if I can find out the secret reason.

  5. Hannes

    Did anyone try swimming with the Fenix HR? Does it recordHR data?

  6. Gianluca

    Hi, to all. Actually I own both a Fitbit Surge and an Apple Watch. This is my activity:

    – Winter/Autumn:

    Gym: 70% (body building + crossfit)
    Bike: 20% (touring with MTB)
    Swim: 10% (swimming pool)
    Run: 10% (easy run)

    – Sping/Summer:

    Gym: 35% (body building + crossfit)
    Bike: 35% (touring with MTB)
    Swim: 25% (open water)
    Run: 5% (easy run)

    Fitbit Surge is very good at HR when running. It is not perfect but sufficient when training in the gym and biking. It does not work in water.
    Apple Watch is a bad sport device, very good when running, but really bad on not-cardio activies.

    I was thinking to buy a Garmin Fenix3 HR to have a better device than Fitbit Surge, but I am afraid of the big expense, because I fear that Garmin will trash it for a newest Fenix4 in a matter of a few months.

    Just a few questions:

    1) Does Garmin support old products for many years?
    2) Do you think Fenix3 would be good for my activities? I would be interested, most of all, in open water and swimming pool activies and biking, to check calories burnt.

    Regards and thanks.

    • Dmitry V.

      “because I fear that Garmin will trash it for a newest Fenix4 in a matter of a few months.”
      What makes you think so? Where Fenix 3 is lacking?

      I think that F3HR was an update for this year. And it is far ahead of present competitors.

    • Ak

      Unfortunately, Fenix3 HR won’t record HR while swimming.

    • Keroma

      Do you know if there is any watch can track HR in the water? I am regular swimmer and I wanted to check my performance and also track my HR level during swimming.

  7. Volker

    Hallo dc, you wrote:

    “Update: While these are in the public Fenix3 beta today, Garmin has clarified these will be removed in the final/production Fenix3 software version, and only available on the Tactix Bravo units.”

    But on final FW 6.80 of the f3, they are still available. Did garmin change their mind?

  8. Ben boujemaa

    Sera t’elle disponible avant mars ?

    • Nicolas

      @ben a priori non ce sera en mars. Ray a dit un peu plus haut qu’il rencontrait les gens de Garmin France cette semaine et qu’il allait leur demander les date de dispo en France.

      Nicolas

  9. Yonadav

    Do we know if battery life for Fenix3 HR at 16 hours is with optical HR and would it be 20 hours like a normal Fenix3 with the chest strap? Just worried since those battery lives are best cases and sometimes much less in reality.

  10. Nick

    Just spoke with CO in the UK- first batch of F3 OHR expected on 22/02/2016!

    • Dmitry V.

      Have you told him how many people would love to see titanium (or at least “silver”) version with HR?

    • Tommy

      I’m not sure what Cotswold Outdoor would do with that info. Someone should tell Garmin though

    • Tommy

      Don’t get your hopes up. While they have stuck to this date, I’ve seen many people getting differing stories. They have said to some people they have no idea how big the first batch is.

      I pre ordered the performer bundle. Good news is they now have all the models available

    • andy from embsay

      If they get them next Monday, that’ll be almost exactly the same as the F3 launch last year, when REI shipped in the first week of Feb and CO shipped theirs in the last week.

  11. Nick

    I cannot wait for DCR’s review- he mentioned that it will be going live mid week, which means it should be out by the end of today!

    • Gabe

      Ray has done most of it already – see Fenix 3 review plus refer to the Forerunner 235 HR review for the optical HR part.

      On the garmin forums users of the Fenix 3 HR have already confirmed what we were expecting. Good HR tracking when not doing intense work outs. Poor tracking during intense workouts. Those users are already saying they’ll stick to the HR strap for those workouts.

    • Nick

      I am keeping an eye on the forums as well.
      However, getting Ray’s opinion on HR accuracy during more intense workouts and his views on potential future improvements are still key.

      Not to mention that I am looking for something a tad more in-depth on the GPS accuracy side.

    • George

      That’s true about the hr but in Garmin forum doesn’t say still anything for the gps of F3 hr

    • I believe I said ‘mid-next week’ on Sunday, so basically around the 24th. I’m easily on target for that.

      In general, I’m seeing some improvement over the FR235 for intense workouts actually (optical HR). I’m in general seeing significant improvement in cycling over the FR235, to the point where I’d put it in the B+/A- range (compared to being barely a C before).

      The only area where I see it still struggle a bit is super-short hard sprints (sub-20″) on bike or run, where it just lags a bit. This is somewhat common to optical HR sensors, but I see it a bit worse here than the Scosche for example.

      As for GPS accuracy, it’s mostly on par with before. I’ve had two odd-ball moments at the beginning of two recent runs, but everything else is clean.

      Attached is an interval workout from last night (F3HR vs HRM-TRI vs Apple Watch). The first section all three differed significantly. I don’t know which is correct, but I’d actually give it to the F3HR if I had to guess. Beyond that, it tracked well. The only part it struggled was in my 30″ sprints. These are done from basically walking pace to sub-5-min mile pace. So, hard and quick. It was more just delayed than anything.

    • Terra72

      Ray – in most of Europe, the convention is that the week starts on Monday, not Sunday. So when you said middle of next week, we all assumed you meant 17 February, not 24 February!

      Thanks for the interim updates though.

    • Robert

      Hva you tried it (Fenix 3 HR) for weight lifting?
      And do you have to wear the watch really tight for it to work well?

      Best regards,
      Robert

    • Swift

      I wonder how it compares to the Mio fuse (based) senser as I feel its the best optical sensor

    • TomG

      You are right, but it’s not Europe, it’s ISO 8601 😉

    • Terra72

      ISO 8601 is a beauty – the closest thing we have to a metric system for time

      So practically European 😉

    • Mark Duncombe

      Hah, I read it as being 17th feb as well and have been checking the website every few hours

      Still, got to enter the Clever Training giveaway :-)

  12. Ray

    Does the Fenix 3 HR support rebroadcasting HR over BT Smart to another device like Runkeeper on my iPhone?

  13. atom

    I *just* ordered a Fenix-3 Sapphire bundle! I wasn’t keeping track of stuff that wasn’t available in shops, but I figured a Fenix with built-in optical HR would be the next logical step in the Fenix line.

    Oh well… For less money, I’ll get longer battery life. That works for me.

    I would’ve thought that built-in HR would mean longer battery life, since it’s not using some form of wireless comms with an HR monitor, but apparently some other design and engineering trade-offs were made.

    • Gabe

      Ha stop trying to convince yourself – i should have waited!

      just go return the thing. Battery life is just a quick charge away.

  14. Keroma

    Is it possible to do a test if Garmin Fenix3 HR work in the pool with OHR?
    I would like to get this watch if it can track the HR in the pool, so I can keep track the performance and my cardio level.

  15. Nick

    Apparently the Garmin Fenix 3 OHR is now due in early March. To my surprise, I was told that customer service at CO cancelled my original order made exactly one month ago as the item was not in stock (obviously, as a pre-order);

    On top of that, I was kindly informed that I am no longer on the pre-order list as my order had to be redone internally. Quite absurd if true!

  16. Bill L

    Ray or anyone – Are there any known issues with using the HRM4 with the Fenix3? I got the Fenix3 a few weeks ago and it came with that chest strap (customer service was surprised, said they thought it only came with the HRM3-Run – but that’s what was in the box). They agreed it didn’t work and swapped it out for me. The replacement just arrived, and it is malfunctioning in exactly the same way. That makes me wonder if 1. they just sent the old one back, or 2. this is an issue with that strap and the Fenix3 in general; they’re incompatible for some reason. It’s just wrong. It started out reading 20 bpm too high while I was at rest and as I started walking, slowly increased up to 140 while a physical count for a full 60 seconds only showed a rate of 80. 60 beats off is clearly wrong, and that’s exactly what the strap I returned did. I have a HRM3 (not Run) that seems to record correctly. Anything I should know before talking to customer service again (they’re closed)?

    • Dmitry V.

      This looks just like a faulty unit. No reason why it should not work with Fenix 3.

    • Bill L

      Kudos to Garmin customer service. I’ve tested both my old Garmin HRM3 and now 2 HRM4 (red housing) on both the new Fenix3 and an older “other brand” watch, and while the HRM3 worked fine while, both HRM4s gave similarly screwy results. Garmin CS said although there is no known issue, they’d replace it with an upgrade to the HRM-Tri at no additional cost and no need to return the faulty strap. I’m concerned that 2 out of 2 straps that bundle with the Fenix3 just didn’t work, but it seems to have worked out for me (assuming the replacement works). I do tris as well as run stupidly long distances, so it’s a good fit. Here’s hoping.

  17. Wauzi

    Hi all!
    Antoni knows if the fu al version of HR comes with the wrist sensor disabled in the swim mode?

    Thx

    • Yes, the current production units have it disabled in swim mode. They’re continuing to work on the accuracy in swimming to see if they can make it acceptable enough for public release (on the Fenix3 HR).

    • Karsten

      I used it in SUP mode today and it worked great while surfing, kept track of my heart rate with no glitches. My GPS however was all over the place. It had me surfing on a freeway about 500 yards away and doubled my milage.

  18. Nicolas

    I have just pre-ordered min in a French shop. They said it will be available beginning of March. I know this may not be true but anyway I’ll wait until they receive it.

    Nicolas

  19. EF

    Question about data portability for Ray or anyone with a F3HR: I currently use the RunGap app to sync HR from GC to HealthKit. Has anyone tried / know if it’s possible to get the continuous (all-day) HR measurements into HealthKit?

    Thanks!

  20. Samuel

    Great review. I’m considering whether I should buy the Fenix 3 HR sapphire, the Fenix 3 sapphire HR bundle or the VivoActive HR. How is the notice of the HR sensor (is it annoying)? I am looking forward to your answer.

    • Dominick D.

      I do not notice the oHR module at all – the only difference is having to wear the watch one “notch” tighter than the F3.

  21. Dominick D.

    Probably the first user of the F3HR to use the oHR exclusively on a 50k –

    With a few training runs in to understand the device and how the oHR responds to me I decided to use it for a trail 50k I did yesterday.

    Course was three laps of a 10 mile loop with about 1100 feet of elevation gain each lap – course was icy, muddy, rocky, steep in sections, typical of the US Northeast in the winter.

    I had a basic plan in mind going out;

    1. Stay under 150bpm the first 5 miles
    2. Stay under 160pm on the hills
    3. Average under 10min per mile pace per 10 mile loop
    -ended up finishing in 5:40, which I account to saving weight on not wearing a chest strap…..ha JK!-

    The watch and oHR responded astoundingly – given on prior runs I had seen the watch take 15-20 seconds to settle in once I threw some sprinting, or hill climbs in I took that into account and was able to work within that “window”

    So not much more to report other than I am confident using the oHR thus far –

    • Fearless Farang

      Wow Dominick, …. 50K’s & in these conditions. Not exactly an urban family fun run. I am currently using the Forerunner 920XT, which is a great watch. However, the HRM chest strap is really bothering me on each and every run. I have never had a heart condition, but wearing this strap gives me a slight idea what a mild chest constriction might feel like. I am not really into detailed running dynamics, just time run, heart rate, calories burned & GPS. The Fenix 3 (HR or not) definitely has a lot of functions that I would never use and paying a premium for these unwanted features is something I am still resisting. However, if the oHR on the Fenix 3 HR definitely works, I will probably purchase this model. Have you had any experience with the 920XT, Dominick? and what are your thoughts in comparing these 2 watches? Thank you so much for taking the time to inform the visitors to this site about your experiences.

    • Dominick D.

      Thanks! Do not have any experience with the 920XT, sorry! Im very pleased with the F3 oHR for the majoirty of my running and 24×7 HR. Expectations outside of that are not as high, but its all about understanding the sensor and how it works on your arm –

  22. Andrew

    On the fenix3hr can you turn off the 24/7 heart rate recording? Or is it always in recording mode? Question pertains to battery life. thanks so much!

    Andrew

  23. Gabriel

    Hi,

    does anyone know if you could use the quick mount plate of the F3 with the F3HR?
    I would really like this type of Mount but I doubt it will work with the optical HR on the bottom of the watch..

    Thanks in advance

    • No, it blocks the sensor.

    • Gabriel

      thanks for your reply..

      It is clear that the optical HR doesn’t work.
      I thought more of a mechanical point of view.

      I want to mount the watch on my bike. Then I have to use a HR strap no matter what.

      For running I would change to the rubber strap and not the strap+quick release..

      Thanks

  24. Tommy

    Hi Ray,

    I know your in-depth review is due shortly, but I wonder if you could provide some insight. Now the Vivosmart HR has been announced with “smart” auto activity recognition, do you think that feature will find its way to the Fenix 3 in a future firmware update? Could you pose the question to Garmin please?

    For me this is a killer feature as it would (or could) prevent counting steps while cycling.

  25. Jonathan Winter

    So Cotswold uk have just confirmed that my order of the Fenix 3 HR is delayed till mid March due to an issue they are having with a component. Disappointed to keep waiting. Hopefully it won’t be delayed again.

    • Tommy

      Same update:

      “Unfortunately we have heard that Garmin are delaying the release until mid March due to an issue they are having with one of the components. We do not yet have a more precise date.”

    • andy from embsay

      Odd that there’s apparently a problem with a component but they’re releasing these things in the US?

    • Nick

      Got told the exact same today. Mid March it is- for the time being.

    • Dom

      It is most likely lack of availability of this component for production of the units – nothing defective.

    • Tommy

      Clearly they are telling porkies as it is already released. They just don’t have stock

    • Fearless Farang

      I have just cancelled my order for the Fenix 3 HR. Too many uncertainties and the sparce information that is available points to inaccuracies with the GPS antenna and repeatedly revised delivery dates. For the price Garmin is charging for this device, I am not willing to become one of their beta testers. As a long distance runner I am also not into golf, stand-up paddling, I don’t need to control music from a smart phone that I do not carry, don’t need to monitor my sleep patterns & also don’t need a compass. Just a sturdy metal watch with metal buttons, preferably with a reliable wrist based pulse measuring system. Maybe in a few years time. Until then I stick with my 920xt.

    • Dmitry V.

      “and repeatedly revised delivery dates”
      This is just a new product introduction. I suppose you don’t expect that Garmin started production half year ago to prepare enough stock for launch date? Even Apple and Samsung can not afford this.

      “I am not willing to become one of their beta testers”
      This is just a new variant of Fenix 3 that was on a market for almost a year. It is not a completely new product.

      “Just a sturdy metal watch with metal buttons”
      Just curious, why have you placed an order for a plastic watch, if you need a metal one?

    • “and repeatedly revised delivery dates”

      Just be aware that it’s often hard to separate between Garmin advised dates, versus retailer dates.

      Officially, Garmin is just Q1 – so anytime before March 31st.

      The challenge is that Garmin also provides dates to retailers for when they’ll start receiving product. Retailers have three choices there:

      A) Pass along the same date to consumers
      B) Pass along an earlier date to consumers to win over business
      C) Pass along a later date to consumers to be safer knowing Garmin misses earlier retailer dates

      I’ve seen all three variants of the above. For example, CT often follows method ‘C’ above. Usually it works out, albeit not always. Other retailers in the US follow A/B, and some also follow C.

      Except there’s one catch: Garmin typically doesn’t provide quantities to retailers until the day of a shipment. So a retailer that has on backorder 500 units, will likely only get 20-30 units in their first shipment. And they don’t know when shipment #2 is (could be the next day, or two weeks later). Thus getting back to how a retailer handles their date chain.

      In theory, Garmin would just tell retailers Q1, like they tell consumers. Then everyone would have to put ‘Q1’ on their websites and the world would be happily surprised. But alas, they don’t do that – and thus this ensues.

    • Fearless Farang

      I paid a pre-order deposit after a firm delivery date was announced. The delivery date was then revised a number of times. Initially I don’t expect anything from Garmin, other than adhering to their time line before fishing for deposits from their dealers. The current Fenix 3 HR seems to have problems with GPS accuracy and one would have thought that Garmin worked on this problem for the HR version. A gentleman in this thread states that this is apparently not the case, with him surfing on urban freeways, ‘500 yards’ away from his real ocean location. Then there are other Fenix 3 owners complaining about flashing screens and various display inaccuracies. At least the top part and the buttons of the Fenix 3 HR appear to be made of metal, that is what I meant in my previous post. My guess is that the price for the HR will drop considerably after the initial shop front – sleep over customer base have taken delivery of the first batch under the roaring applaus of individual retail staff.

    • George

      Well I find you a little aggressive don’t forget that you are just one buyer like the rest of us that just don’t have the patience to wait for it others do just keep in mind that and also from what I reed in the Garmin forums ppl who have the F3HR they don’t say that this unit has neither gps or flashing screens or anything else atm the only thing that they have to say is that the OHR in intensive workouts doesn’t respond well but that we already knew it that the cause they say you to use the strap.

    • Fearless Farang

      I sincerely apologise to you George, if you find my post ‘a little aggressive’. I have no intention(s) to upset you. Of course, everyone has the right to form their own opinion and I formed mine based on the feedback that I have discovered on social media, including ‘Karsten’s’ post earlier on in this thread. I have plenty of patience, but I do not like to be fooled. If someone does not keep appointments with me on 3 occasions, I will not wait for the 4th time. Again, no aggression intended. By the way, most of my own workouts are intense, so I best keep the (optional) HRM strap with me, should I decide to push the purchase button. My very first car was a Citroen 2CV. If the starter motor failed, you could use a hand-crank that was provided with the car. I had to use it on a number of occasions. A fitting analogy, at least for me.

    • George

      I understand you and you are right about the miss guidance from the seller about the f3hr but don’t forget he wants to sell also but that’s no excuse as for the gps from karsten the only thing I can say all units have bad days and I don’t think the gps for surfing is the proper way to test it but that’s my opinion butnevertheless,I don’t see lately posts in forums about the gps accuracy for F3hr as was seeing about the f3 ,also the current unit ,from what I read has a solid firmware atm (don’t have same firmware as f3) never mind time will saw us if it is a good unit or not.

    • Fearless Farang

      Thanks George. I will wait for your particular feedback, should you decide to purchase this watch. The GPS of my current 920xt is spot on, with Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (or Glonass) engaged. Prior to this watch I owned the FR620, which had to be replaced by Garmin on 2 occasions. The GPS was terrible on this watch, with me often having to stand outside my (low rise) house for up to 5 minutes to obtain the neccessary satellite signals. I bought the 920xt after neighbours started to become a little suspicious regarding my behaviour. The touchscreen on the FR620 also only worked when the watch face was dry, which wasn’t the case on rainy days and when I generated too much sweat. As you can see, I have a bit of a history and mixed feelings with Garmin, going back several years. But I am still loyal and filled with hope. This is why I initially paid my Fenix 3 HR deposit. Everything will be revealed in March?/April?/May?, component/firmware updates permitting. And Garmin, I am available should you are reading these posts and looking for additional pre-release testers. I don’t want free merchandise, just willing to provide intensive use/realistic feedback.

    • Dmitry V.

      “At least the top part and the buttons of the Fenix 3 HR appear to be made of metal”
      Only bezel. Main body is plastic. If you are really interested in metal watch with optical HR – look at recent Android Wear models. Although that is a very different category.

      “My guess is that the price for the HR will drop considerably after the initial shop front”
      Anyway it will be more expensive than Fenix3 due to sapphire crystal and optical HR sensor. So I would not expect a significant drop. As this is definitely a well desired watch. (not like Epix)

    • Dmitry V.

      “A fitting analogy, at least for me”
      I suppose there is some confusion about HR sensors. HR strap and optical HR sensor both could measure a heart rate but they work very differently and, as a result, have different areas of use. Optical HR is good for 24/7 monitoring, for light workouts or gym. HR strap can provide much more accurate data (and measuring resolution) so it is much better for activities such as running or cycling. Although this depends on what person needs.

      At least – this is my current understanding.

      Another example. I would love F3HR to be able to use optical sensor in the pool to show approximate current HR. But I would still use HR strap for more accurate data. (although not sure if Garmin will implement support of such scenario)

  26. Pieter

    Hi all,

    @ DC; great respect for your work here, you have been able to build the best/ most complete review platforms I have come across.

    I have been looking the web for an answer to my question but have not yet been able to find one, that is why I hope any of you may be able to help out.

    Simply put, I would like to know if it would be possible to do 24/7 heart rate tracking with the Fenix 3 using a 3rd party tracker such as the Fitpal* (if it comes out)? Or is the Fenix 3 hr the only one that supports this function in its software?

    I could of course, go for the Fenix 3hr and not use the optical tracker but I’m not sure if it shuts down when paired to an other sensor (battery life..).

    Tried to keep it as simple as possible, hope I managed..

  27. Kenneth W.

    I have an Up3 for tracking hr and sleep in addition to my Fenix 3, is sleep tracking improved in 3 HR?
    It would also be interesting to know if time awake ever would be removed from Sleep reports, I am not interested in my sleep period i.e. time between going to bed and leaving bed as I have a 13 month old at home and there can be hours awake in between…
    /Kenneth

  28. Gabriel

    Hey Ray,

    I`ve a question regarding the connect IQ store.
    There is a section “fenix 3 / quatix 3 / tactix bravo” and a section “fenix 3 HR”
    Then there are apps tagged with “fenix 3” and “fenix 3 HR”

    As I would need the quatix apps (tagged only with “fenix 3”), do you know if I could use them on the “fenix 3 HR” too?
    I would highly appreciate if you could test this for me, as it would change my order to “non-HR”.

    thanks

  29. Marcel

    Ray – I’m looking to (pre)order a fenix3 HR from London. I’ve tried to use the REI, CT and Amazon links but none of them work. I suspect this is due to my European location.

    How can I buy from London and support you? (and which European retailers might deliver early…)

    • I’m super close on announcing a European retailer with the same deals for readers in Europe as in the US. We’ve been doing test shipments the last few weeks, and fine tuning the site for Europe. We’re working through a punch-list of remaining quirks/bugs. I’ll likely do some sort of beta roll-out to interested DCR users before announcing it more broadly. And I’d guess the DCR gold-star folks is a great place to start. 😉

    • ToniM

      I know you said something about this in the past but now it sounds closer, really great news Ray!

    • Terra72

      Great news.

      Am I right to conclude from your answer that your definition of Europe includes the UK?

      How close is super-close? As in days / weeks / months?

      I have a pre-order for the Fenix 3 HR but with the delivery window slipping into March anyway, I would be happy to switch to a different deal.

    • Marcel B.

      Thanks – Ray – good news!

      Would love to try this for the fenix3 pre-order (I’m on your list)

    • Nick

      I would be very interested in ordering through that as well!

    • Chris K

      Delivery of all new Fenix Models have been postponed to sec. week of Marc. for Europe or at leased to Germany. Just to let you know.

    • Yes, UK is included.

      Exact dates are tough. Not days, but likely a few weeks. I hope not months, but then again, I would have said that a year ago. But at least now things are cooking and shipments flying around. So I’m optimistic it’s close.

    • Nick

      I hope that the release of Ray’s review of the F3 OHR is due to go live any moment now. I have been revisiting the blog on a daily basis for the past week or so and cannot wait to take a look at his take on the watch!

  30. paul linck

    With the Garmin Forerunner 235, the only way to broadcast the HR data to other devices (e.g,. bike computer) is to put the watch in HR broadcast mode so its useless for running during that time. In a triathlon with the Fenix I would like the HR data to be broadcasted to my Edge 520 (or 1000) during the bike like but still record the bike like with HR while riding. That way I have the bike leg on both (in case one fails which happens) but also have the full tri on the fenix3.

    Will it be possible to broadcast HR while still using the watch as normal or will it need to be in broadcast mode like the 235?

    • Martin

      If you check in the manual, which is now available, in tells the following:

      Broadcasting Heart Rate Data to Garmin Devices
      You can broadcast your heart rate data from your fēnix 3 device and view it on paired Garmin devices. For example, you can broadcast your heart rate data to an Edge® device while cycling, or to a VIRB® action camera during an activity.
      NOTE: Broadcasting heart rate data decreases battery life.
      1 Hold UP.
      2 Select Settings > Sensors > Wrist Heart Rate > Broadcast HR.
      The fēnix 3 device starts broadcasting your heart rate data, and appears.
      NOTE: You can view only the heart rate widget while broadcasting heart rate data.
      3 Pair your fēnix 3 device with your Garmin ANT+ compatible device.
      NOTE: The pairing instructions differ for each Garmin compatible device. See your owner’s manual.
      TIP: To stop broadcasting your heart rate data, select any key, and select Yes.

    • Paul linck

      Yes, I get *how* to broadcast. The question was can the Fenix be used to record activity while HR is being broadcast and based on your manual quotes the answers is NO. The Fenix3 behaves identical to the Garmin 235 in this capacity – i.e. it can not broadcast HR data AND be used to record an activity at the same time. It essential just becomes a wrist based/optical HR sensor in this mode and does nothing else.

      That is what I expected but its a shame. I want to record an activity on my Fenix while it is broadcasting my HR to another device. I definitely want to do this in Ironman so i have the complete bike data on both devices – edge 1000 and fenix3. In its current state, I would have to swim, then switch to broadcast HR mode for the bike (to use my edge 1000) and then switch to run mode for the run which is not ideal.

    • Dmitry V.

      “I want to record an activity on my Fenix while it is broadcasting my HR to another device”
      Why not use HR Strap instead? It will provide more detailed data and could record HR during the swim. (and – send data to several devices)

      I really interested in optical sensor in F3HR, but I don’t think that with it you can completely forget about HR strap. (obviously, depends on scenario)

  31. Gella

    I called REI today and they have a back order ship date of 3/13/16 for the Fenix 3 HR. Just FYI if anyone was curious.

    I also have a question, I have petit wrists. Will I have issues with the optical sensor being able to read my heartrate? Or is wrist size not an issue for function? I went to a store and tried on a regular Fenix 3 and I *think* I can get past how big it is aesthetically on my wrist but would prefer to get the Rose Gold option if the optical HR is going to be a a wash anyway with my wrist size.

  32. BD

    Kind of an off the wall question, but I noticed in Garmin Express my F3HR has 16 slots for apps/widgets/watch faces — the same as I saw described for the F3. But I read elsewhere the F3 capacity for these is 512KB? F3HR says 1024KB. Is this a difference between the F3 and F3HR? Or was the information I saw about the F3 incorrect? Not that it makes much difference — I’m more likely to run out of slots way before hitting the memory limit anyway, but I thought maybe it was an unannounced upgrade.

    I’ve had my F3HR since 2/12 and I’m happy with it. Went on an 8 mi run with one of the custom run datafields and it was great to see so much info at a glance. GPS tracking matches my iPhone 6+ using Runtastic at the same time. HR seems accurate so far. No complaints.

  33. Arnout

    New date in the Netherlands 7 March according to Garmin.
    Patience is a virtue.
    Bever.nl claims to be first in line in NL to get supplies of the Fenix 3 HR.

  34. Brian Gray

    Will the Fenix 3 HR transmit HR data for ANT+ so that, for example, I can use it instead of a chest strap when turbo training with Perf Pro Studio? Thanks

  35. Byron Rodas

    Great article!! Really helpful. i’m looking into getting a Garmin Fenix 3 HR, but it doesn’t come with the strap i want….were can i get the brown leather strap that you stated for $59?

  36. Nick

    Curiously enough, being tired of waiting for Garmin to get their act together and release this watch in Europe, I am starting to become less and less interested at the expense of the Vivoactive HR or the FR 235, for that matter.

    The GPS tracks that I have seen until now, especially in comparison with the F3, do not point to any improvement to what was my biggest gripe with the F3. The FR 235 seems to not suffer from the types of GPS problems I saw on all three units that I went through….

  37. frgrant

    New forum about fenix 3! http://fenix3forum.com

  38. Nick

    Just cancelled my order for the F3 OHR. I got rather tired of waiting with no information being given on when this product will be available. I guess that I will buy the Vivoactive HR when it becomes available.

  39. Gerome

    Could someone please post the link to the review of the F3HR? I can’t seem to find it anywhere!

    • Nick

      As far as I am aware, Ray’s review has not been published yet..

    • Not yet, however, until it is later today, you can read the Apple Watch review I published this morning. Which includes numerous Fenix3 HR tidbits in the accuracy section…

    • Mark Duncombe

      you little tease Ray :-)

    • John Lemon

      Ray, I really admire your work… absolutely the best and most competent source of knowledge on electronic sport gadgets on the Internet.

      And now… probably one of the most stupid questions you’ve ever got.

      I am considering buying Garmin F3 HR, however Im bit scared of the opinions of GPS tracking failures and so on. Your In-Depth review would be critical in making my decision – are you going to publish it before 10th of March? if not… Do you think I shall preorder my Fenix or would it be a big mistake? 😉

    • Dominick D.

      Ive used the F3HR for 2 weeks now and over 30 workouts and a 50k race – the watch is fantastic. GPS is better than my F2 – I can appreciate you waiting for the review but do you actually think he’s going to say the gps is so poor that you should get the F3 instead? order it!

    • John Lemon

      Thx for buoying me up! :)

  40. Lorenzo Servitje

    Wondering if I can get the titanium band on the F3HR—would that look weird since the bezel will not be Ti as in the no-HR F3 saphire?

  41. Hi All!

    A few hours ago (3 hours and 56 minutes to be precise), I published the Fenix3 HR In-Depth Review. You can find that here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    As is usually the case, I’ll be closing the comments on the preview post – but feel free to hit up the new post for any comments/questions.

    Thanks everyone!