This product has been discontinued by the manufacturer. It's been replaced by the Garmin Forerunner 945, you may want to check out that review instead.
- Summary of new features
- The bands and watch materials
- Product Comparison Tool
- A few thoughts
- Fenix3 Video & Photo Galleries
- Discussion (2338)
Hands-on with Garmin’s new Fenix3 multisport GPS watch with color screen
(Note: My Fenix3 In-Depth Review is now published and available here, go forth and enjoy all the details there instead!)
Today, Garmin announced the latest iteration of their Fenix lineup with the Fenix3 multisport GPS watch. Described at its simplest – the Fenix3 takes the navigation and hiking functionality of Fenix2 and merges it with virtually all of the new functions found on the Garmin FR920XT watch. Except one difference: It leaves behind the plastic look of the FR920XT and introduces everything from a metal link band to different glass options.
Let’s go ahead and dive into it!
Summary of new features
As I noted above, this watch is really about a tribal merge between the functionality found on the FR920XT and the Fenix lineup. Historically speaking the Fenix lineup has always been aligned more to the Outdoor/Hiking crowd than the runner/cyclist crowd. While the Fenix2 changed that a fair bit in becoming a multisport watch, there were always little reminders that it wasn’t quite of the same bloodline as the Forerunner series.
That all disappears now with the Fenix3. This watch shares more in common with the Forerunner series than the Fenix series, from the ground up. However, it doesn’t do away with any of the Fenix family features – namely navigation related.
To keep it straight forward and to the point, here’s the run-down of all the new functionality found in the Fenix3 that weren’t present in the Fenix2:
Added WiFi connectivity: This allows you to upload workouts the moment you walk through your door.
Added concurrent Bluetooth Smart/ANT+: While the Fenix2 had limitations on using one or the other at the same time, that limitation goes away here.
100m waterproofing: This is an increase from 50m waterproofing.
New GPS antenna: The Fenix3 includes a new EXO GPS antenna which includes GLONASS support.
New color screen: This screen and user interface looks virtually identical to the FR920XT, except in the body of the rounded Fenix watch face. It’s not HD-color like some smart watches, but it’s better than the FR620 and inline with the FR920XT.
Connect IQ support: This will enable you to download apps, watch faces and other customizations for the Fenix3…starting today for watch faces and data fields, with apps coming shortly.
Daily Activity Tracking: This will track steps, sleep, and how much couch surfing you’re really doing during the day.
Virtual Racer: This adds in the capability to race against past performance and downloaded courses.
Metronome: This audible/vibration alert was added on the FR920XT to be used for running cadence drills.
Personal Records (PR’s): This will let you know when you’ve hit your best times against standard distances like 1-mile, 5K, and other common brag-able reference markers.
Cycling Dynamics & Di2 support: These won’t be available at launch, but are being looked at for a post-launch update.
Cycling VO2Max: In addition to already supporting running VO2Max, the Fenix3 adds in support for cycling VO2Max for those with a power meter.
Multiple bike sensors: The Fenix2 didn’t support multiple bike profiles, the Fenix3 mirrors the FR920XT and allows you to pair to as many sensors as you’d like to save for automatic recognition as you change bikes.
FirstBeat HRV/RR: This data will now be included in recorded files.
Addition of Activity Profiles: Now you can create highly customized activity profiles just like on the FR920XT and Edge 510/810/1000 devices.
Multisport mode supports pool mode: Unlike the Fenix2, the Fenix3 allows you to choose the pool within a multisport event.
Alpine Ski & Snowboard Mode: While this was technically on the Fenix2, I call it out simply because very few people realized it was there.
Auto Climb Feature: This mode will automatically change your display fields when climbing. For example, you can set to show elevation, ascent, and grade fields as you start to run uphill.
Of course, what you see above might be somewhat familiar for Garmin FR920XT users. It is in effect almost every software feature on the FR920XT coming to the Fenix3 (yup, even that Ski mode recently hit the FR920XT). The key software differences then between the Fenix3 and the FR920XT becomes the additional more detailed navigation related functions found on the Fenix lineup that aren’t on the FR920XT.
The bands and watch materials:
Some of the biggest changes to the Fenix3 isn’t actually the software, but the hardware itself. It simply doesn’t look like any previous Garmin device…it actually looks physically attractive. The Fenix3 comes in three different models, which are:
Fenix3 Gray – $499/$549 with HR bundle (shown above left)
Fenix3 Silver – $499/$549 with HR bundle (shown above right)
Fenix3 Sapphire – $599, no HR included (shown above middle)
The Sapphire edition refers to the glass used on the exterior of the display, which is a harder material. It’s become popular with watch makers of late, as it implies being stronger. In reality, I’ve never heard of any recent non-Sapphire Garmin or Suunto high end GPS device actually having their display cracked/broken in regular (or even non-regular use). But to each their own.
In addition to the three Fenix3 models, there’s also a slew of different band options – which allows you to mix and match the different bands seen, including the metal band option seen below normally attached to the Sapphire unit.
Product Comparison Tool:
Now, it’s probably getting a bit confusing with some of these recent models as to how the FR920XT, Fenix3 and Epix all differ. In many ways, they’re basically the same base functionality with the material aspects of the watch and navigation capabilities being the difference. Here’s a nifty little over-simplified visual overview of the differences that I whipped up:
But, for those of you who are more spec oriented, here’s the full rundown of specs. Note that my charts don’t fully cover materials yet (like the glass front and band types), so this is more from a technical feature set level.
|Function/Feature||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated April 29th, 2021 @ 4:56 am New Window|
|Product Announcement Date||Oct 1st, 2014||January 5th, 2015||January 5th, 2015|
|Actual Availability/Shipping Date||Early Oct 2014||February 2015||May 2015|
|GPS Recording Functionality||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Data Transfer||USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi||USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi||USB/Bluetooth Smart|
|Waterproofing||Yes - 50m||Yes - 100m||Yes - 50m|
|Battery Life (GPS)||UP TO 40HRS IN GPS||Up to 50hrs in GPS||Up to 50hrs in GPS|
|Recording Interval||1s or Smart||1S OR SMART||1S OR SMART|
|Ability to download custom apps to unit/device||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Music||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Can control phone music||No||Yes||Yes|
|Has music storage and playback||No||No||No||Connectivity||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Bluetooth Smart to Phone Uploading||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live Tracking (streaming location to website)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)||No||No||No|
|Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)||No||No||No||Cycling||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Designed for cycling||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter Configuration/Calibration Options||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|Power Meter TSS/NP/IF||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|Speed/Cadence Sensor Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Strava segments live on device||No||No||No||Running||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Designed for running||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Footpod Capable (For treadmills)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)||With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN||With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN||With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN (Gen1 only, no Gen2 Running Dynamics)|
|Run/Walk Mode||Yes||Yes||Yes||Swimming||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Designed for swimming||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Openwater swimming mode||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lap/Indoor Distance Tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Record HR underwater||With HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM||WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM||WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM|
|Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||Yes||YEs||Yes|
|Indoor Drill Mode||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Indoor auto-pause feature||No||No||No|
|Change pool size||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths||17M/18Y TO 150Y/M||17M/18Y TO 150Y/M||17M/18Y TO 150Y/M|
|Ability to customize data fields||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can change yards to meters||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Captures per length data - indoors||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Indoor Alerts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Triathlon||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Designed for triathlon||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multisport mode||Yes||Yes||YEs||Workouts||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Create/Follow custom workouts||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|On-unit interval Feature||Yes||YEs||Yes|
|Training Calendar Functionality||Yes||Yes||Yes||Functions||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Virtual Partner Feature||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual Racer Feature||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Day to day watch ability||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tidal Tables (Tide Information)||No||No||Only with Garmin Bluechart g2 maps (extra)|
|Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)||No||No||No|
|Geocaching||No||Via GPS coordinates||Yes (but not paperless geocaching)|
|Weather Display (live data)||Yes||Yes||With Connect IQ||Navigate||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)||Yes||YEs||Yes|
|Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)||No||No||Yes|
|Back to start||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Impromptu Round Trip Route Creation||No||No||No|
|Download courses/routes from phone to unit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Sensors||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Optical Heart Rate Sensor internally||No||No||No|
|Heart Rate Strap Compatible||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Heart Rate Strap Capable||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|ANT+ Speed/Cadence Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Footpod Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Power Meter Capable||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|ANT+ Weight Scale Capable||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Lighting Control||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Bike Radar Integration||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Remote Control||No (can control VIRB though)||No (can control VIRB though)||No (can control VIRB though)|
|ANT+ eBike Compatibility||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)||No|
|ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)||No|
|Shimano Di2 Shifting||Yes||Coming in update||No|
|Bluetooth Smart HR Strap Capable||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Capable||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart Footpod Capable||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Capable||No||No||No|
|Temp Recording (internal sensor)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Temp Recording (external sensor)||No||Yes||Yes||Software||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|PC Application||Garmin Express||Garmin Express||Garmin Express|
|Web Application||Garmin Connect||Garmin Connect||Garmin Connect|
|Phone App||iOS/Android/Windows Phone||iOS/Android/Windows Phone||iOS/Android/Windows Phone|
|Ability to Export Settings||No||No||No||Purchase||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
|Amazon||Link||Link||Link||DCRainmaker||Garmin Forerunner 920XT||Garmin Fenix3||Garmin Epix|
If you’d like to compare in other models – like the now older Fenix2, you can do that within the product comparison tool/calculator over here.
A few thoughts:
In many ways, I think the Fenix3 is cosmetically speaking what many FR920XT users have been asking for – something that doesn’t look like a plastic watch. And no doubt, with its weight and design, it certainly delivers there. But would-be consumers also got something they probably didn’t want: A $50 price jump over the FR920XT, or a $100 price jump over the Fenix lineup previously.
Garmin argues that the price bump is justified, saying: “Based on the comprehensive feature set and premium materials used, we had to put this at a higher price point. Fenix 3 uses stainless steel, a mineral glass or sapphire lens, and although the 920 is a great watch it’s all plastic.”
While I’m horrible at picking apart prices, I suspect that Garmin also feels that given semi-competitive offerings on the market are in the same price range, that they can probably charge more. While I think there’s some validity to that line of thought, we’re also seeing the floor drop out below connected watch makers as so many new entrants come onboard – be it Apple or other consumer electronic makers. Time will tell whether or not this works out for Garmin.
Still, the Fenix3 is an impressive watch. It is basically a FR920XT with advanced navigation features and a very clean external look, and to that end it does its job very well. While I’ve spent a bit of time toying with it, I’ll be waiting until I have a final production unit to make any final opinions on it. But, so far, so good.
Garmin is saying that the Fenix3 will ship in Q1 2015 (so by March), though it sounds like that might be quite a bit sooner rather than later. In any case, once I do have a final hardware and software version – expect about 3-4 weeks later for an in-depth review from me.
First though, here’s an 8-minute YouTube video I’ve put together walking through some features and allowing you to see the display quality and responsiveness a bit.
Fenix3 Video & Photo Galleries:
In addition, here’s three different galleries of Fenix3 photos I’ve shot, along with a video playlist that I’m constantly adding to. These are all shot on final hardware units. The videos are show mostly on final software Thus, there may be minor differences between now and release of the final software/firmware versions.
Video Playlist: This playlist starts with the final Fenix3 unit unboxing, and then moves into how it works, before going into videos on different Fenix3 functions. The little drop-down in the upper left allows you to change the video to other videos in the playlist. Keep checking back for new ones!
First Gallery: A mixed collection of shots
Second Gallery: Comparison Shots with a variety of watches
Third Gallery: Just a lot of photos of the watch screens
This is just a boatload of photos from using the Fenix3, different sport modes, different layouts, different features and functions.
With that – thanks for reading, and feel free to drop any questions below (though to keep things tidy, try and keep this post for Fenix3 questions, and the Epix post for Epix questions).
Note: You can pre-order the Fenix3 through Clever Training today (all three versions and associated bundles), as well as various accessory bands. The units will ship as soon as Garmin starts shipping, which is currently slated for Q1 2015.