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Garmin Fenix3 HR In-Depth Review


Last month at CES in Las Vegas, Garmin introduced their most advanced wearable device with an optical heart rate (HR) sensor in it – the Fenix3 HR.  This device took Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensor and added it to their hugely successful Fenix3 watch, which has become Garmin’s most advanced watch for multisport athletes (seemingly surpassing the higher end Epix along the way with new features).

I’ve been using a few different versions of the Fenix3 HR since that timeframe.  However, this review is shaped on runs/rides/activities since the unit started shipping about three weeks ago.  As such, it’s a final production device with the final firmware on it.  Like always, once I’m done with this review I’ll wrap it back up and ship it back to the Garmin folks in Olathe, Kansas.

Within this period I’ve used the device virtually 24×7, attempting to understand all its ins and outs.  I’ve taken it running, swimming, cycling, skiing, and done general gym workouts as well.  Plus of course just using it as a day to day smartwatch.  Based on that, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how well it works (and where it stumbles).

However – I’m doing something a bit different with this review.  Specifically, I’m just focusing on a few core features of the Fenix3 HR that are different from the Fenix3 that I’ve already reviewed.  That’s because the Fenix3 has a massive feature set.  Realistically there are hundreds of features in the unit, all of which would take months to review again in full-depth.  And realistically, 99% of those haven’t changed since the first edition.  So rather than you have to wait till spring to tell you what you already know, I’m just going to focus on the new stuff.  If you’re looking for some of the basics around how the Fenix3 works in general, swing on over to my existing Fenix3 In-Depth Review.

Sound good? Let’s get cooking!



First up, we’ve got to get this thing unboxed.  Thankfully, that’s a rather simple process.

Garmin-Fenix3HR-Box-Front Garmin-Fenix3HR-Box-Back

After taking apart the three-piece box, you’ll find basically three things:


You’ve got the charging cable, the watch, and the power adapter.


Starting with the charging clip, it’s very similar to the existing charging clip for the original Fenix3:


The difference though is that you’ll see a slight chunk taken out of the middle of it, which is where the optical sensor sprouts out of the watch.


That said, in a pinch, you can actually use the original Fenix3 charging cable, just don’t snap in both sides (kinda leave it alone sitting there).  Inversely, you can easily use the Fenix3 HR cable with a regular Fenix3.  There’s also the small wall adapter.  Or, you can just plug it into any USB port you find and it’ll happily charge.

Last up you’ve got the watch itself.  Basically, it looks just like the original Fenix3 from the front, but has the tell-tale optical HR sensor bump on the back.



Note that the Fenix3 HR comes in a few different strap variants. This review includes the regular strap, but there’s also a leather strap available.  You can use pretty much any Fenix3 strap you’d like though, assuming it doesn’t block the optical sensor (more on that later).

Size & Weight Comparisons:

For the most part, the Fenix3 HR isn’t really that much different from the regular Fenix3.  The exterior front-facing shell is identical.  So much so that outside of some very subtle style tweaks to the front, you’d be unable to tell the difference apart unless you really knew what to look for.


Of course the real changes are on the back of the unit – which houses the optical HR sensor.  It’s here that you find the small sensor bump.


This sensor bump is no different than that found on the FR235, Vivosmart HR, and Vivoactive HR – all of which contain Garmin’s Elevate sensor.


It’s a small bump that I honestly don’t feel at all, since that portion of your skin is fairly soft and so for me it’s just not something that I notice.  There are however a handful of people that do notice sensor bumps (from any number of companies).


When it comes to weight, it’s not terribly different there either.  You can see it below coming in at 90g, versus the original Fenix3 (red variant) being 83g.

Garmin-Fenix3HR-WeightScale-83g Garmin-Fenix3REd-WeightScale-90g

Note that depending on the exact band you place on the unit, you will get different weights or widths/textures.  There are no doubt a lot of options today in that category:


However, keep in mind that you are unable to use any strap/band system that blocks the optical HR sensor (at least if you care about the HR sensor).  For example, neither the fabric/nylon NATO-style straps will work (since they’d block the sensor) or the Fenix3 Quick Release Kit.  Both of which block the sensor entirely.  Again, you can use nylon straps, but you just won’t get optical HR readings and will want to disable the sensor and use a chest strap via ANT+ instead. Whereas the quick release kit simply won’t fit.

24×7 Optical HR Tracking:


The Fenix3 adds in the same tracking capability as other recent Garmin fitness wearables with the optical HR sensors.  Meaning, if you’re familiar with those (FR235, Vivoactive HR, Vivosmart HR) – it’s almost exactly the same here.

To start, Garmin has all the standard daily activity tracking such as steps walked, distance, and so on.  That’s all pretty much dial-tone baseline these days.


However, what’s new over the last few months is the 24×7 continual HR monitoring piece.  This means that it leverages the optical HR sensor to track your heart rate throughout the day.  It does this by turning on and off the green LED sensor at various times and then gathering your HR to record it.  The unit uses the accelerometer to know how active you are.  If you’re more active, it updates and records more frequently.  Whereas if you’re less active (asleep), it does so far less frequently.


I wrote an entire post about this just last week in far more depth, so you may want to check that out there for more clarity on how the rest of the industry works (including Garmin).  What I see though is that the Fenix3 HR acts fairly similar to how the FR235 does, and updates more frequently than the Vivosmart HR does. I just get far better battery life. About 1-2 weeks with roughly 1hr per day of GPS time (more on weekends)

However, I’m still prone to getting long multi-hour stretches without any resting HR updates.  Here’s a handful of images of a few recent days that show the update rates.

2016-02-26 12.42.56 2016-02-26 12.42.10

All of this data is available in two spots. First is the mobile app, as seen above & below.

2016-02-26 12.41.56

And then second, is on the device itself via the ‘Heart Rate’ widget, which you can access by simply pressing the up/down buttons.  It’s basically like a dashboard page.


Within that page you can view the last four-hour graphical history, as well as a 7-day rolling history, which shows you the average RHR too (seen a few photos up).

For the most part, despite the lower recording rates while I’m asleep or semi-inactive (such as typing like this), it does seem to get my RHR metrics in the right ballpark.  Typically for me my resting HR is in that 39bpm-42bpm range, and it seems to mostly be correct there.

2016-02-26 12.41.39 2016-02-26 12.41.29

Next, it’s worthwhile point out that the Fenix3 HR also adds in Intensity Minutes, which was also added to the original Fenix3 back in January.  Intensity Minutes is a new metric that Garmin added this past fall to other wearables that aims to track your total weekly exercise efforts.  This is based around the 5 days by 30-minute guidance that many heath organizations recommend.  So in this case, Garmin just totals it as 150 minutes of exercise per week – and then allows you to mix and match however you see fit.

You can also edit the amount as well, as seen below.

2016-02-26 12.48.26 2016-02-26 12.48.35 2016-02-26 12.48.46

You’ll also see this on the watch itself, however by default the widget is in the ‘hidden’ state, so you’ll just need to enable it.


For most serious athletes who are looking at the Fenix3, they’ll likely hit this without too much thinking – which is probably why Garmin doesn’t show the screen by default.  However, if you’re more of a casual athlete, then the 150 minutes guidance is a great goal to try and hit each week and is something that’s fairly achievable.  Note that you don’t need to kill yourself on these workouts to count – so don’t fret too much there.

Optical HR in Workouts:


Now that we’ve covered the portion of the day where you’re not working out – let’s dive into the workout aspects.  Like the 24×7 pieces, these too leverage the same HR sensor as other recent Garmin wearable products – so there isn’t a huge degree of hardware difference.  However, there are some minor differences.  Further, there is a bit more flexibility in battery than that of the other battery-constrained units (i.e. the Vivosmart HR).

The first thing to know is that the optical HR sensor isn’t enabled in all activities.  Rather, only ones in which Garmin believes accuracy is high enough to be usable.  So for example, it’s enabled in running and cycling – but not in swimming activities.  For activities that it’s disabled in, you’ll need to leverage an ANT+ heart rate strap (and more on that later for swimming).

You can always disable the optical HR sensor on your own accord though, via the sensors menu.  Think of it like a permanently paired sensor.  You can choose when or whether it’s enabled.


When you start a workout, it’ll start to acquire your HR.  In most cases, this won’t take more than a few seconds.  You want the little HR icon to illuminate a solid ‘red’ color.  If it’s blinking, then it doesn’t have a (good) lock on it yet.  So definitely wait until it’s happy.  But again, this almost always happens in a couple seconds.  In the below picture I have HR lock, but not yet satellite lock (the red circle around the outer edge).


At that point you’ll want to wait for your GPS to acquire, again, more on that in the later section on GPS accuracy.  Just ensure it’s green (not orange or red), then add a bit extra time for good measure.  Now, you’re ready to roll!

While working out, the optical HR sensor gives you baseline HR data no different than that of the ANT+ HR strap.  You’d never know the difference from looking at the main screen, since it’s just BPM (or whichever data metric you’ve configured).


However, there are some features that are unable to use the optical HR signal fully.  These are primarily due to the optical HR signal not giving enough data around heart rate variability (HRV) for these features to function.

Additionally, some Running Dynamics features require a separate accelerometer based in a chest strap (HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN) to be able to properly measure.  So those ones won’t work either.  Here’s what won’t work:

  • Some Specific Running Dynamics Metrics:  Ground Contact Time Balance and Vertical Ratio (others like cadence work just fine)
  • Performance Condition and Stress Score
  • Swimming HR: Both pool and openwater will require the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM HR straps.

Without a HR strap, those features will not work.

Garmin-Fenix3HR-Stress-Test1 Garmin-Fenix3HR-Stress-Test2

Just for clarity purposes, the following DO work with the optical HR sensor over the Fenix3 HR:

  • VO2 Max metrics, Lactate Threshold metrics (auto or manual), Recovery Advisor, Race Predictor, Records

Note that you won’t always trigger a VO2Max (or Lactate Threshold) result each run.  For example, in my case with the Fenix3, I appear to have only triggered it four times over the last four weeks.  Note that for cycling VO2Max, you also need a power meter.


I have however managed to trigger a couple of Lactate Threshold test results along the way using just the optical HR sensor of the Fenix3 (via Auto Detect).  This functionality was introduced with the FR630, and was carried through into the Fenix3 HR:

Garmin-Fenix3HR-LactateThresholdTestSettings Garmin-Fenix3HR-LactateThresholdTestValue

In my case, I suspect the Lactate Threshold test result was still a bit high, but as we saw with the FR630, it takes a number of ‘the right workouts’ (using auto detect mode) to get the correct result.  If you do a guided test, you’re far more likely to get a more accurate result upfront.  As to what the ‘right workouts’ are, it’s a bit hard to know exactly – other than usually more intense workouts with a longer period in the higher intensity zone.

HR Broadcasting:

Before we talk HR accuracy, I should briefly mention that the Fenix3 HR allows you to re-broadcast your heart rate over ANT+.  This means that the Fenix3 HR will take your optical HR reading and then re-transmit it so that other ANT+ capable devices, such as a Garmin Edge, can pickup your HR reading.

To enable this you’ll go into the sensor menu (which is somewhat buried), and then select ‘Broadcast HR’:


It’ll now show your current HR, and the time:


Meanwhile, if you grab something like a Garmin Edge device, you can pair it to the Fenix3 HR and receive your HR:



Note that one caveat is that you can’t see your regular activity screens in this mode, it requires you exit the broadcast mode:


You can however actually start a GPS activity first, and then enable broadcast mode.  So that does work, it’s just annoying that you can’t enable the broadcast mode and perhaps have it simply turn off at the end of the session when you save the file.  I note this because the Vivoactive HR does actually allow you to enable broadcast mode and not impact your ability to otherwise use the watch.

HR Accuracy:


Now it’s time to dive into whether or not the optical HR sensor is actually accurate.  The short version is that I found it built fairly well on top of the optical HR sensor of the FR235, and seems to have implemented a few software tweaks since then to improve in some of the edge cases of the FR235 that caused me challenges.  Note that because all of these units share the same physical optical HR sensor, we tend to see Garmin update the firmware across the board.  So while it’s been 3-4 months since I tested that, it has received firmware updates since then addressed at optical HR sensor tweaks.  I expect that to continue.

We’ll start with running, then talk cycling, and finally finish up swimming.  Basically, a backwards triathlon.  And yes, I said swimming.  What?  You thought I wasn’t going to at least try it?

Ok, first up is something rather easy – just a simple easy-paced run.  Now it’s funny in that this particular graph makes it look far less stable than it was.  That’s mostly because my HR was basically 130, +/- 3bpm.  So the scale on this graph makes it look kinda jumpy, when it’s really not that variable for the majority of it.


Here’s another run that was somewhat similar, from Barcelona this past weekend.  In this case, you see a bit of variation at the beginning and then they match except for one spot around the 17-minute marker.  For that first portion variation, I’d guess that the chest HR strap was actually wrong there, as it was an easy run that we eased into, so it’s unlikely that I’d have spikes with the chest strap then.  I also had the Apple Watch on this run, but the data from it was mostly useless in this regard.


Next, we’ve got a tempo run of sorts.  This nearly hour long session has four main chunks after the warm-up, with 2×10 minutes, then 2×5 minutes, then 4xSprints.  You’ll see that it generally does quite well on tracking the harder intensity tempo portions.  It does have a very slightly delay when I end each tempo section though, in that there’s some lag when I go from running hard to walking.  It’s more apparent in the middle sets, though it does fairly well in the last 5-minute set.

You see that during the final 4xSprints, which are basically 30 seconds long and at full-out running intensity, than things get fairly close.  It managed 3 out of 4 properly, which is actually much better than I’d see on the FR235 or many other wrist based optical HR sensors.  You’ll note that in another similar run, it struggled a little bit on these.  So sometimes it’s going to vary.


(Side note: There actually was a 3rd HR sensor on this graph, the Apple Watch.  However the track was so horribly wrong that it distracted from the graph, but you can find the same run in the Apple Watch review, should you wish to see it.)

Here’s another tempo-ish run of sorts.  It increases intensity over the first 30 minutes, then I do 3 different interval chunks of increasing intensities.  In general, the unit tracked very well on the bulk of this.  At the beginning, I see variations between the three units. I’m honestly not sure which track would be right.  It wasn’t the Apple Watch, but it could have been either the Fenix3 HR or the HR strap.  This is one of those examples where in low temperatures chest straps can struggle a bit.

You also see that slight delay at the end of a hard set, as well as being a bit short during the 30-second intervals.


Next, a longer run from this past weekend. This run was split up into 10 minute chunks with varying intensities.  You can see rather easily that it tracked quite well across all of these.  Interestingly, at one point at the 57-minute marker while running (and not stopping) I adjusted the strap to make it tighter.  For about the following minute, the unit wasn’t terribly happy about that. Lesson of the day: Don’t adjust the strap while running high cadence drills.


(Note that on this particular run I was running a beta build, in the last few minutes of the run, the unit did suffer a crash and restarted.  So I’ve focused on the 1hr 25mins prior to that point.  Again, it was a beta build.)

How about a switch up to cycling?  This is where I’ve seen some improvement compared to the FR235 (or the Vivosmart HR).  Take for example this ride, which was on the relatively smooth roads around the Spanish island of Mallorca.  In this case, the unit does very well except for one brief section at about the 55ish marker.  This is ironically when I was actually OFF the bike, taking a couple of quick photos before riding back home.  So you can judge that failure however you see fit.  My guess is that the much sharper cadence of my cycling shoes on the concrete tricked it (cadence often tricks optical HR).  You see a slight delay again in the last big dip as I crested a hill and started descending, but it’s not horrible.


However, it’s not always so good.  I find that the more variability I introduce into a ride, the more it struggles.  For example, on this ride across the city (full of cobbles, rough roads, stop/go, etc…), it seems to have some tough times.  I can’t say I’d use the sensor much in cycling when it looks like this.


To help settle this a bit, let’s go inside on a trainer for a workout.  In this case you can see that it tracked fairly well across the majority of the workout.  You see a few brief seconds where it momentarily separated or didn’t catch a significant shift.  But otherwise, it’s fairly similar.


Thus proving that the rougher roads is really the problem here, not so much the position of cycling.  So the summary there for cycling is that it’s likely OK when you’ve got smoother roads and more stable efforts.  However, when you’ve got rougher roads it seems to struggle more and is less reliable.

Finally, a brief look at swimming.  Yes, I had to try it out even though it’s disabled for swim mode.  To track it, I simply put the watch into indoor running mode.  This meant I didn’t get any swim metrics (pace/laps/distance), but I did get HR.


For my swim I wore the HRM-SWIM paired to a FR920XT on one wrist, and then the Fenix3 HR on the other wrist


I then went about my swim sets, which included 3x500m, followed by alternating 50m hard/50 meters easy.  This was the result.  Purple is the Fenix3HR, red is the HRM-SWIM.


For those that aren’t clear – no, it doesn’t track well.  Garmin says they’re continuing to work on accuracy in the water, and if they can get it to an acceptable level, they’ll enable it for the Fenix3 HR.

GPS Accuracy:

I wanted to briefly touch on GPS accuracy within the Fenix3 HR post, despite the fact that Garmin claims no components have changed between the original Fenix3 and the Fenix3 HR.

There has been much ado in some circles about the GPS accuracy of the Fenix3, specifically (mostly) in trail environments, though occasionally in city environments.  The majority of my running is in the city, though I do go out into the trails from time to time (including during this review cycle).  My city is the dense concrete buildings of Paris, which aren’t quite as tall as skyscrapers of NYC, though they make up for it in tiny little one-lane streets.  I also ride out of the city as well, so I’ve got plenty of non-city terrain too.  For example, my recent long-weekend in the mountains of Mallorca.

Overall, I’ve seen generally good performance with the Fenix3 HR.  There have been a handful of times (two specifically) where it has struggled.  However, out of the 30+ days of workouts otherwise, I haven’t seen any issues.  Nor has the eagle-eyed followers on my Strava account.  My Fenix3 HR is setup to wirelessly sync there, so the vast majority of the time it’ll sync via WiFi well before I get out of the shower on a workout.  As a result I’ll find more than enough comments from the gallery on what folks think.

A prime example being this run from a few weeks ago, where the Fenix3 HR shortly after starting went for a swim around some 8-10 story buildings.  What’s interesting is you can really see it struggling the first portion until that point.  So even though I had the green go on the satellite track, I only waited about 1-2 seconds before pressing start (because The Girl was giving me the Death Stare that we better get going).  Normally, I’d end up waiting 20-30 seconds longer – which seems to help significantly.  It’s as if the unit isn’t really quite ready yet.


Or nearby again, where it struggled the following night crossing a bridge.  It’s odd, I see this little section causing pain for many GPS devices, not just the Fenix3 HR though.  Perhaps it’s the taller buildings causing issues on the right side there.


However, the vast majority of the time the unit performs solidly.  I’m able to zoom in on complex sections throughout many runs and find it’s tracked well or on par with the FR920XT:


Or again, through the mountains without issue:


Or, through trails.  In fact, this earlier chart from last month with the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical  – actually compared the Fenix3 HR too.



One of the challenges with the Fenix3 in general is that it’s sold so well (well into the hundreds of thousands of units, if not closer to a million units).  As such, you see a higher volume of discussion on it, more so than really any other unit.  So even if the total ‘bad-track’ volume is the same as other watches on any given random day, then you’re going to hear more of it – just because there’s 20, 30, or perhaps 50 times more Fenix3’s out there than Suunto Ambit or Polar V800 devices.  Just my two cents.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well, more details here.)

Product Comparisons:

I’ve added the Garmin Fenix3 HR to the product comparison tables, so you can mix and match any of the products I’ve reviewed to see which features they have.  For the below comparison purposes, I’ve placed the Fenix3 HR next to the Fenix3 (original), and the Suunto Ambit3 Peak.  But remember you can create your own product comparison table as you see fit anytime with the product comparison tool here.

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated April 9th, 2021 @ 8:12 am New Window
Product Announcement DateJan 5th, 2016January 5th, 2015July 10th, 2014
Actual Availability/Shipping DateFebruary 2016February 2015Sept 2014
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 50hrs in GPS with optical off, about 20-25% less with optical HR onUp to 50hrs in GPSUp to 200 Hours
Recording Interval1S OR SMART1S OR SMARTVariable
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreat
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesMinimal
MusicGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Can control phone musicYEsYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesNo
Group trackingNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Designed for cyclingYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYesNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Designed for runningYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YEsYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN (Not via Optical HR)With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUNNo
VO2Max EstimationYEsYesYes
Race PredictorYesYesNo
Recovery AdvisorYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYEsYesNo
SwimmingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Designed for swimmingYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYesYesYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIMYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YEsYEsYes
Indoor Drill ModeYEsYesYes
Indoor auto-pause featureYEsNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYEsYesYes
Can change yards to metersYEsYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYEsYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesNo
TriathlonGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Designed for triathlonYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYEsBarely
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesNo
FunctionsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Auto Start/StopYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYesNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYEsYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataYesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)YesNoNo
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesNo
Weather Display (live data)yESYesNo
NavigateGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYEsYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNo
Back to startYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)No
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)With Connect IQ AppsNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoComing in updateNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapablenONoYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNo
SoftwareGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressMoveslink Agent
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix3Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

And remember again, you can mix and match your own comparison chart using the product comparison tool here.



So is it worth the extra cash over the regular Fenix3?  That’s really what this all comes down to, right?

It depends a bit on how you train and what sports you use it for.  For most people in running, it’ll likely do the trick most of the time.  There are certain pieces that lag a bit, but the majority of the time it’s good.  Meanwhile, for cycling it’s going to depend on the road conditions a bit.  I’d probably just use a HR strap there for now.  And lastly, for swimming, it’s not yet enabled – so you’d need a strap anyway if you wanted swimming HR.  Do keep in mind that if you use a quick release kit today with a FR920XT or Fenix3, then this won’t work with that.  But if you step away from the typical swim/bike/run triathlete realm that this multi-sport device is designed for, and instead focus on a less intense athlete – then it’s likely to fit the bill rather well.

The 24×7 piece, while it could use some more tweaking, is getting there.  I just wish they’d allow me to control the rate of optical HR update (and thus battery burn) to get a bit more accurate data at rest (sitting or sleeping).

As for the rest of the watch, Garmin has added boatloads of small features to the Fenix3 lineup over the past year.  None of which are earth-shattering, but many are appealing to specific niche requirements that folks have had.  And in the process, they are burying Suunto and Polar in terms of the feature arms race.  Some might argue however that at times, that arms race has led Garmin to introduce more bugs than their competitors. And that’s likely true.  However, I’d also wager that the vast majority of the bugs tend not to impact everyone (or even 1-2% of everyone).  Additionally, their semi-new open beta program has helped to keep those bugs for the people that love being on the bleeding edge (and providing feedback).

Overall, it’s pretty hard to beat the Fenix3 series, HR or otherwise, in today’s high-end GPS watch market.  On the flip side, one can buy more reliable 3rd party optical HR sensors for less than the added cost between the Fenix3 HR and the base Fenix3.  It then really comes down to a choice between accuracy and convenience (and 24×7 HR monitoring value).

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Garmin Fenix3 HR (select drop-down for specific variant)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (though, no discount). Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

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  1. RoamingNick

    I’m guessing you’re familiar with the Basis Peak and its sleep-tracking capabilities, which have been independently assessed to be of clinical-grade accuracy. Any thoughts on how Garmin’s sleep offering stacks up? I guess key considerations (for me, at least) would be: does it auto-activate? Does it track REM/deep/light sleep? Does it make the accessing of that data simple? Does it provide reminders/targets? Quite satisfied with the Peak, and certainly find its sleep-tracking to be of great use. Garmin’s would need to be equal or better to persuade me back into the fenix club (had both v1 & v2).

    • It’s not in the same league from a sleep tracking standpoint. For example, it doesn’t list REM sleep, nor does it leverage the optical HR sensors for sleep. And often, you’ll get large gaps in sleep data.

      On the flip side, the Basis Peak largely sucks at sports, so…it’s a bit of a tradeoff.

    • RoamingNick

      I actually quite like it, esp. the longer I wear it. Sure, its not a hard-core fitness wearable – but assuming one also carries a phone (which I do, tucked into a just-big-enough pocket in the lumbar region of a pair of Salomon shorts; or tucked into my cycling jersey) then its OK – streams HR which pretty much all that’s needed. Some basic on-screen info – time, calories, cadence – though, notably, no distance. They keep adding capabilities via OTA firmware updates. Basically I find it good enough, though swim capability is pretty useless.

  2. Igor

    Soft updated to 3.0 right now. Do you know, what is new in this version? On Garmin web I found only version 7.0 from which I´m a little bit confused…
    Many thx.

  3. Daniel

    Ray, quick question: What’s your guess/ inside knowledge regarding a new top-end running watch?
    I’d love wifi, touch screen and optical hr in one device.
    Danke, Daniel

    • Dmitry V.

      Don’t forget that sport watch can become wet quite often (sweat, rain, water) making capacitive touch screen useless. Plus it will increase power consumption.

      Other than that you have described F3HR 😀

  4. Dre


    For a recreational multi-sport athlete (sprint tris, weightlifting, hiit, hiking), do you feel the Fenix 3 HR is worthwhile the price premium over the new Vivoactive HR? There seems to be close parity in terms of features, and while the VAHR has a touch screen, the Fenix’s form factor (subjective) is much better.

    • If you’re a triathlete, I’d say yes in general. Mostly because the VAHR doesn’t do ‘multisport mode’, so that means that in a race you have to start/end each segment. Plus, the VAHR doesn’t do openwater swimming (only pool).

      Of course, it’s a huge price jump, so in some ways kinda hard to justify for just those two features. Will depend person to person.

      (Note: There’s a crapton of other features the Fenix3 has the Vivoactive doesn’t, but those are the big two for triathletes to be aware of).


    I just bought my Fenix 3 HR and used it on a treadmill run last night. After the run, I synced the watch via USB with Garmin Connect and found that the HR data was completely missing from the activity (everything else is ok). During the run, I did scroll to the HR screen and saw the HR which seemed to be working fine. I chose “Run Indoor”. I saw the heart icon was slowly flashing in white and grey and then I presses start. What did I do wrong?

    PS. I used FR225 before and it worked fine. Everything was recorded and transferred to Garmin Connect.

  6. Trent

    What other 3rd party optical options would you suggest? I’ve tried the FR235, but it just doesn’t feel right. I’m considering the F3HR, but have also thought about a FR630 w/ alternate optical. The only thing I don’t like with the 630 is that you need a strap or other device none of which seem to offer 24/7 hr.

    • I generally find the Scosche and Mio optical sensors to be quite good. I give the slight edge to the Scosche, merely because it has stronger transmission (broadcasting) than Mio typically does. Optical sensor wise, both are pretty solid.

      Of course, those are options that require you wear a second device (versus a single integrated device).

  7. Nav

    Any idea if the Fenix3 HR auto detects a sport (form running / swimming / biking) like the VAHR does?

  8. Eric

    Great review! Do you know why Clever Training doesn’t have the Fenix 3 HR on their website? When I click on the link above, it goes to the Fenix 3 (not HR). I’ve searched on the site as well, and it simply isn’t there.

  9. Marco

    Hi Ray, do you know if the calorie expenditure is affected by the continuous HR sensor on the new Fenix 3 compared to the previous Fenix 3? or the if the movement and steps is what determines the daily calorie burnt? (I am talking about normal activity tracker only not during exercise)? Thanks

  10. Brian


    I realize that 24×7 heart rate doesn’t sample as often for the Fenix3 HR. However, do you foresee them changing this in the future? Is there a workaround to this? Thanks.

  11. Michael

    Thanks for a great review. I am very pleased to see the broadcast capability for cycling (which I will use the most) but a bit concerned about your comments on accuracy. Do you have any idea why it is inaccurate for cycling but not so much for i.e. running ?
    Seems to me that running would offer more “movement” of the wrist and thereby the sensor compared to cycling and assume that has something to do with the accuracy as well ?

  12. Trent Bauserman

    Has your partnership with clevertraining.com changed? I tried to purchase the Fenix 3 HR with the code, but it said it’s not a valid option with that code. I’m fine to purchase theough them regardless, but if I can save some money in the process.

    • VIP code or regular code? The regular code won’t work unfortunately. But if you’re having any issues, simply hit up: vipsupport@clevertraining.com

      They respond virtually immediately (real human), and should get you all set and good to go.

      Thanks for the support!

    • Trent Bauserman

      Apparently they’ve had to change things with Garmin Discounts. I just thought I would pass the below information along.

      “Thank you for contacting Clever Training. We recognize that you are reaching out to us due to the VIP program no longer applying a discount on select Garmin items. We apologize for any inconvenience as this is a recent change to our VIP Program in order to comply with pricing restrictions from Garmin.”

      I am impressed they gave me discount in spite of the change.

  13. Maria

    As always, great review Ray! One question: Do you know if the other presentations of the Fenix 3 (like rose gold/white, I know, I’m such a girl) will come with the HR sensor in the near future? Thanks!

  14. Dennis

    Great review!
    Although I have an unusual question. Will this thing still run while being charged on the go? I mean if one was running a 72-hour ultra, can this be charged on the fly using the charging cradle and a portable power bank in my pack? Thanks!

  15. Fred

    Thanks for the review. What more reliable 3rd party optical HR sensors are you referring to in the end of the review? (Hope you haven’t already answered the question below, but I didn’t see it there.)

    • Generally this one: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Mio also makes great sensors as well, but the communications antenna on their designs aren’t quite as strong, so when it re-broadcasts your HR sometimes there were drops.

      Also, Mio’s sensor is used in Garmin’s first optical HR product – the FR225, as well as TomTom’s first Cardio lineup. Great sensor.

  16. Frank


    I am a developer. My new Fenix 3 HR is arriving in the post in the next couple of weeks. In spare time, I will try programming apps for this. I would like to know from anyone here, what apps do you miss on this device, what would you love to have?


    • Ethan

      Personally, I would love to see tide tables……

    • Richie

      Lucky for you, Garmin has a tides app on connect iq available for download. Their site is down right now, otherwise I’d post the link here. Looks like Garmin made most of the apps for the Quatix 3 available for download to the fenix 3, etc.

    • Gianluca Musumeci

      An app or widget for Wind Direction and speed, based in gps position. There is nothing for Fenix 3 HR.

  17. Claire Glennon

    Thanks for your very comprehensive review. I’ve just bought the Fenix 3 HR. I went for a swim today and tried to set the custom length of the pool, but I did it wrong, Andr own i cant seem to change it. I just wondered whether you had any tips for this issue?
    Thank you

  18. Saso

    Great review man. Can you tell me is there any brightness difference between the standard Fenix 3 with the red strap and the latest Fenix 3 HR or it is the same screen. Is the visibility same in all conditions. Thanks and have a good day.

    • Same screen between the units.

    • Saso Stoilevski

      There is a file with the response I got from the official garmin support regarding the difference between the Fenix 3 and the Fenix 3 hr. They say the HR version has more advanced and better looking screen and since I had no chance to compare those two side by side I was wondering what is the more advanced thing because in every picture I`ve seen and in yours and other comparing reviews I see no differenc. Maybe pure commercial.

    • It’s the same display. They’re talking about the glass atop it, which is sapphire and thus more resistance to scratches (in theory).

      Basically, they’re trying to make you think it looks different. It doesn’t.

    • Saso

      Thanks for the responses man. Greetings

  19. Duffetta

    Every Garmin watch I have ever owned has had AutoLap. I read in the tech specs that the Fenix3 HR does NOT have Autolap. Is that true? If it is, I’m kinda stunned.

  20. Chris

    Hey, quick question. How did you manage to export the optical heart rate data from the watch? I want to compare the 24h heart rate to that of the basis peak.

  21. Chris

    Should the OHR light be on all the time when acting as a normal watch?

  22. Rycarter

    Best in class review, and engaged discussion, by an order of magnitude. I’m getting back into running following cancer surgery. Fingers crossed I can get back up to 50 milers, maybe (maybe) back to 100s. I know this watch won’t get me there, but it could make the work more fun.

    Thank you to Ray and everyone who makes this information so valuable.

  23. Tony

    This blog is amazing! I have a few questions if you have a moment.

    1. Will the Fenix 3 HR work with any regular heart rate band during exercise? I have a Wahoo one already.

    2. If I buy the Garmin speed and cadence sensors for my bike, will they synchronize with the Fenix and in turn with Strava?

    3. Since I don’t run (yet), is there any benefit in buying the HRM-Run chest strap for walking? Or are its metrics exclusively for running?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Thanks!

      1) As long as it’s ANT+ capable. As long as you don’t have the very original Wahoo Blue HR, it’ll work just fine. All the TICKR straps will work. There would be a little ANT+ logo on the back of it. Note, it won’t transmit Running Dynamics data though. Nor save HR while underwater.

      2) They will connect to the Fenix3 while riding, and then yup, upload to Strava.

      3) Just the Running Dynamics metrics. I don’t see them as terribly useful.

    • Tony

      Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I think I will buy the Fenix, the cadence/speed sensors for my bike, and the swim heart rate band. That should cover me for now. If I ever get fit and healthy enough to run, I’ll buy the run band.

  24. Chappo

    Has anyone been able to create a “nap” on their F3HR?
    I’ve put the activity tracker to sleep, had a siesta, turned sleep off afterwards, but nothing shows in Garmin Connect. Is there something i am missing?

  25. Nabeel

    Can i use any company band ( like any leather or metal band) with garmin fenix 3 hr other than those by garmin??

  26. Paul

    Hi Ray,

    I have read the part of the review about GPS accuracy and what you say about many people having the Fenix and therefore more people with problems overall makes sense to me.

    Anyhow, I currently own a 620 and am generally happy with my GPS accuracy, and therefore would like to know how the Fenix 3 HR compares to it in GPS accuracy. You know… expectations and previous experiences/comparisons can be tough to handle when you spend this kind of money!

    Thank you for your help and awesome reviews!


  27. jason

    Seems still not that good on HR, but has some improvement if compare 235. I will keep using my 225. I predict at Fenix 4 it will be usable.

    • fm

      I just started using my 735; ran with it on one wrist, and a 230 + strap on the other and the wrist HR matched the strap very closely. It’s certainly good enough for me to dispense with the strap except for when I want the advanced running dynamics (I did get the run bundle so I have the RUN strap).

  28. Shaw Goh

    I have been researching hard on this and with regards to the “Sapphire” model, here is my finding. Can Ray confirm?

    – The orginal Fenix 3 came in 2 main flavours (multiple bundles). Being Normal screen with plastic band, and the Sapphire model which has the Sapphire screen (tougher) and bundled with a steel strap.

    – The new Fenix 3 HR which is reviewed here comes ONLY with a Sapphire screen. No metal band is included and no non-Sapphire models are made.

    • Dmitry V.

      F3HR was just recently released, so they started with top model to get more revenue. I suppose. So a “non-sapphire” F3HR may be released at a later stage. Possibly, close to Fenix 5 launch 🙂

      “Fenix 3 HR which is reviewed here comes ONLY with a Sapphire screen. No metal band”
      Just couple of days ago Garmin released new D2 Bravo. Same as F3HR, but with titanium bezel and band. (again, they are just trying to maximize the revenue)

  29. Jacky Wong

    So sorry to bother you guys. Is there any way to turn off the ANT+? COULD NOT find this option…

  30. I have a question (current using Garmin 910XT but need/want to change as its 3 years old and getting unreliable) , My area of interests seems to be rarely covered by any review including yours (which I have to say a big thinks for depth and objectivity). Its related to Stairmaster (or steppers as some call them). I use the a fitness watch to RUN 1 time a week outdoors (usually 10km ) but more often (as my goal is weight management and I have well shot knees age 54 and 30 years of rugby at 90-100kg) so I do Stairmaster 5 days a week for one hour. Many of these watches have no useful feature except HR monitor on Stairmaster also when using treadmills in Gym (which is what I do when travelling on business and can’t find a Stairmaster as its better for my knows than running. Do you know good watch that works usefully on Stairmaster and on treadmills? ideally built in HR wrist monitor. budget not a concern.

  31. fm

    I’ve had mine for a couple days. It’s a keeper for me. The 235 may have sufficed as I’m mostly using it for running but I was curious to try out the advanced running dynamics. Thus far, I’ve only used wrist HR, which seems just fine to me, although there are occasional leaps in resting states, presumably because of the low sample rate.

    But a curious observation about the screen: it seems to attract “smudges.” My 230 screen never seemed to get smudgy; always clear. This one, I can’t seem to keep free of smudges. (It also seems to be a little bit smaller than the 230, although that may just be the watch face, not the actual screen.) I wonder if I just got a bad copy, although that seems an unlikely cause for screen “smudginess.” It also arrived with an odd dark blotch on the watch body that disappeared after a few hours.

  32. Margaret Seymour

    Great review, per usual.

    Quick questions. Do you recommend using a foot pod or tempe accessory with the Garmin Fenix 3HR? I see the watch has both temperature and indoor running.

    I typed this then went back and checked some of your other reviews, you had already answered both questions! So I thought I’d just say thanks for the great reviews!


    • It would really depend on how much you want accuracy in either conditions.

      For the footpod, I find it more accurate, and I’ll often use it when on a treadmill. Some that are trail running also use it for clearer pace. For the Tempe, I rarely use it, because I rarely need to know that temperature that precisely.

  33. yauuik

    Hi DC, I really want to know your opinion on this. I use the footpod only for cadence/pace/speed and for distance I’ve let it on GPS. Because I’ve read that it’s better fort calculating distance. It that right ?


    • Generally no. While footpod pace can be very accurate, by bet is that if you were to analyze 100 average road runs of various intensities (trails are different), you’ll likely find the variation from footpod distance is more than GPS distance.

      Typically GPS accuracy is within 1%, but getting footpod within that range across every pace that you might do on an interval run (with fatigue fade, etc..) can be tough.

  34. KC

    Do you know if they will offer the rose gold with built in HR?

  35. Ed Vega

    Hi Guys any one knows any GOOD (in quality and color matching) for a metal band (could be from Garmin or any other 3rd Party).

    I got this answer from Garmin:
    ” The titanium band is going to be a lighter silver color, this will not be the same color as the watch. The metal band is going to be a very similar color as the watch but the finish on the band is going to look slightly more glossy or shiny than the fenix 3 HR face. ”

    so don’t want to pay as much for metal/titanium bands that are extremely expensive that don’t even match the color of the Watch !

    • Dmitry V.

      What colour do you want to match? Bezel? Because the watch itself is mate out of black plastics.
      I If you have PVD-coated bezel (not a “silver” version), you need PVD-coated band. But the issue is that you will get scratches quite soon. So from durability and “exterior” point of view, uncoated metal or titanium band is MUCH better. This is why Garmin, I suppose, has not made PVD-coated bands. (and some people wait for a F3HR for the same reason.

      Here is a link for a quite common “Chinese” copy of garmin’s band. You can find it from different sellers on eBay or AliExpress. link to ebay.co.uk.

    • Richie

      I emailed Garmin support about the potential of releasing the new D2 Bravo titanium band for sale and they said “at this time that watch band is not available for purchase. It is likely that the band will be available for sale in the future but we do not have a time frame currently.” That band uses DLC and should be more wear-resistant than the PVD coated bands like the one Dmitry links to above. I have that band and the coating started to wear within a couple weeks with regular wear. When Garmin releases the black DLC titanium band for separate purchase, it should look good, and be resistant to wear. Hopefully they release it sooner rather than later.

    • Dmitry V.

      “should be more wear-resistant than the PVD coated bands like the one Dmitry links to above”
      That one is uncoated titanium (at least, this is in description and I’ve read its review, where it was uncoated titanium). But I see that they say about light and dark version, so I suppose dark one may be coated.

      In terms of DLC. Titanium is quite easy to scratch, so looking at my other metal bands, I don’t think that DLC on titanium will be able to do much work.

    • Igor

      I´ve got the Garmin original dark metal band and it is not coated like the dark bezel. After 2 month of daily wear (including running, biking, swimming, hiking … and also grass cutting 🙂 I´m still a happy person, no scratches on the bezel as well as on the band 😉
      BTW, on e-bay I found the b.c. link, but it is suspiciously cheap…

      link to ebay.co.uk

  36. Eric

    I just ordered the Fenix 3 HR, and I am exited to receive it. However, I’ve just looked at previous release dates for the Fenix 2/3 and I’m worried that the Fenix 4 could be coming this year. Has there been any news on a Fenix 4, or even rumors?

  37. Great review, as always!
    Have you heard if new functionallity is comming to the “hot keys section”?
    In particular, I’d like to have a hot key to turn on/off “Auto lap”.
    E.g. long-press Lap button to enable/disable Auto lap.
    As it is today, I have to go down a lot of sub-menus to do this.
    I switch Auto lap on and off quite a lot. E.g. I want it on for long runs, but off for things as intervals (where I press Lap manually).
    If you haven’t heard anything, could you please submit it as a proposal? I think you have a lot more leverage than us mere mortals. 🙂
    /Richard, from Sweden

    • Phil

      Hi Richard.
      Just create a new activity eg “Long Run” or “Interval Run” with the settings you want.
      I’m guessing this by the way as I don’t have one yet,
      Hope it works.

    • Yes, that is of course one way. Was just hoping I wouldn’t have to duplicate all my screens and so on. But I think I’ll take the bull by the horns and just do it.

    • There was a copy function! So was much easier than I initially tought. Thus, I’m now running as you suggested. Thanks again!

  38. Nav

    Hey guys / Ray, can somebody help on the below inquiries please for a Fenix3 HR?

    i’m trying to add the steps field (steps per lap) in the data screens during running, and i don’t see it in the list of fields amongst all the categories (time, pace, other, etc.). Any way one can do this please?

    Is it possible for one to look at the watch mode during an activity (viz. running)? I can go into setting, but can’t seem to go into watch mode (a.k.a. letting the activity run on the background while having the watch mode on).

    I understand that the pace is smoothed to show in 5 sec intervals. I know that the closest thing to actual pace is the ‘lap pace’. However, is there any way of getting the actual current pace on the data screen? If data fields, does someone know of a data screen that gives this please?

    • Nav

      I found the access to my 2nd question – by a long press on the DOWN button. So please ignore this question. Looking forward to some info on the 1st and 3rd questions. Thanks.

  39. Hi Ray,

    I have dark skin (5 out of 6) as I’m African-American. I’m having issues getting a quick and accurate reading (takes anywhere from 5-10 mins when I start an activity) from the optical HR and I’ve read it might have to do with dark skin (and/or tattoos which I don’t have).

    Is this true? I thought it was a joke but now am thinking it is true.


    • I figured it out…. It was because I had a chest strap set to connect and there wasn’t one so it was waiting for it to connect.

      I find it interesting that the chest strap takes priority over the wrist optical HR. thought it would be the other way around. sound like some firmware priority issues.

    • Yeah, typically HR straps are considered of higher priority. So by default it’ll connect to that. Though it’s odd that it was waiting for it. There’s a setting called ‘Auto’ for the optical HR sensor, so do ensure that’s set to Auto, versus something else.

    • Dmitry V.

      “I find it interesting that the chest strap takes priority over the wrist optical HR.”
      Chest strap will provide more accurate data, so it has higher priority.

      ” It was because I had a chest strap set to connect and there wasn’t one so it was waiting for it to connect. ”
      Strange… If you there is no signal from Ant+ strap, it should have switched to built-in optical sensor.

      “optical HR and I’ve read it might have to do with dark skin”
      Well, this is down to optics. Darker skin is harder to penetrate with the light. Some manufacturers even added an extra LED of different colour for darker skin tones. (and it consumes slightly more power with darker skin). You can always try to move the sensor to an area with lighter skin, e.g. inside part, ideally – straight over main blood vessels (this will make work easier for Optical HR).

    • Daren 8020x

      thanks a lot for the tips! Will try it all.

    • Tom

      I am not so sure. Today after HIIT-like warm up (in Zone 4 in general) I immediately started sport climbing. I was pretty sure that HR strap had priority over optical HR (optical Hr is set on auto) but while sweating and pushing very hard I noticed that my heart rate was surprisingly low (ca 80-90 hpm). I looked behind and I noticed green light while still wearing HR strap. So my guess is that F3 was collecting data form optical HR which was corrupted by my sweating. So I ended my session and started once again without optical HR working. That time everything looked normal (my heart rate was as usual in those circumstances).

  40. Armando

    Hi Ray.

    I’m thinking to buy my first Garmin and I would like your recommendation regards indoor activities, I’m traveling very often and some time a Run indoor and make cycling indoor, my question Fenix 3 HR or Vivosmart HR+ , have the capability to measure these activities.
    Of course when I have time I like more tu Run Outdoor and make MTB, and I guess for the comments Fenix 3HR is better than VivosmartHR+ in MTB sport.

    thanks in advance for your comments and recommendations.


  41. Julián Aloy

    Hi Ray! how are you? I hope that very good! I’m Julian de Rosario, Argentina. First I am very grateful for your comments about the Fenix 3 HR that reaches me on June 1. I have a problem, buy fenix 3 HR with Varia Smart bike Headlight, 2 Varia Tail Light and remote control, but note that are not compatible with the firmware Fenix 3hr. The question is … you have any idea if future will be intelligent lights compatibility with garmin?
    From already thank you very much!

  42. un11imig


    Regarding sleep capabilities, does it auto-activate? Does it track REM/deep/light sleep/restful sleep?.


  43. Jack

    Hey Ray, excellent review man. Just wondering if there is any way to create and edit activity profiles via garmin connect or does it all have to be done on the watch? Thanks again for the review, really helpful!

  44. Navin

    Hi Ray, thanks for the review. I bought the watch and am loving it so far having had it for abt 2 weeks. All my runs have been quite precise and the data seems quite detailed.
    I wanted your thoughts on an issue i faced yesterday. During a 9 miler, for the first time the GPS seemed to have wonked out for the 7th mile (this section being through high rises in downtown here in Toronto) logging the mile in abt 5:14, which seems way off than even my fastest interval split. I’m hoping this is a one time bug in the GPS signals and NOT of the watch, coz i haven’t had an issue at all in other workouts. Please let me know your valuable thoughts. Thanks.

    the workout on GC: link to connect.garmin.com

    • Navin

      Sorry abt the inclusion of the text “How’s it going dude. Wanted to share some good news with you.” in the message. It was a mistype, rather an excerpt from another email, and i’m not sure how notepad included it in this section, when i was drafting a note to your blog. Please assist. Much appreciate it. Thanks.

  45. Tony

    Have you got any idea if the optical HR is turned off and a HR strap used instead, will this increase the battery life more on par with the non hr model or 920xt? I take longer than 16 hours to complete an IM!

  46. Lucie Goikoetxea Mintegi

    Hi Ray, it’s my first time writing here so I’d like to thank you first for all the great work you’re doing, really appreciated! And here goes my question…I’ve recently acquired Fenix 3. I used to have a FR 305 and then Suunto Ambit 2S. A few weeks ago I went back to Garmin (needed muchlonger battery life)…I went running the first time (a run where I needed to keep certain pace during different segments) and what was my surprise that the actual pace shows total bullshit…, even in open space the pace goes tens of seconds up and down even if I’m running constant pace. Today I went on my 4th run with it and still the same…(and it is not a small discrepancy…i.e. running at 6 min/km it shows me 6:40, in a few seconds goes to 6:25, then to 5:35!!! then back to 6:30, 7:40…). I’m very unhappy about this…have you also noticed this problem? Or anybody else here…? Thanks…

  47. Hello. Thanks for all your nice reviews. I have just one question, i use two phones one for work and one for cycling, would the fenix 3 be able to switch from one to the other phone without having to pair it again all the time? … anyone tried? … I have not yet bought the watch … many thanks. Marco

  48. Mike

    Hi there,

    I have the Fenix 3 and also a 910xt.

    The 910xt connects to my Woodway Desmo treadmill using Ant+ but my Fenix doesn’t, any idea whether the HR Fenix supports ‘Exercise Equipment’, I think it’s what it’s under on the 910xt.

    Many thanks

    • Unfortunately they stopped supporting that type of gym equipment a few years back in new models (about 3-4 years). 🙁

      Ideally someone would just come up with an FE-C or Gym Equipment app for Connect IQ, which would kinda solve things.

  49. Mike

    I am considering the Garmin Vivosmart HR and the Fenix3HR. I know there is a significant price and feature difference, and I want to use the watch for running, cycling, indoor cycling, general fitness tracking, etc. But I also want to use the watch for hiking. Will the Vivosmart HR be able to track basic information (e.g.distance and altitude climbed, the route taken, and an ability to get me back along the same route I followed)? Or is the Fenix3HR so much superior for hiking that it is worth the extra $350?

  50. Andres

    Thanks Ray for another great review.

    Any idea of when the Fenix4 would come out? And what could it include? Garmin add the HR monitor , but the the rest of the Fenix is more than a year old, no? I am expecting them to launch the version 4 for the holidays.

    For 500 they need to do a great job in making it a smartwatch … having some connection with iPhone and Android besides alerts. I liked what Tag Heuer did… have a nice looking traditional watch that transforms into a smartwatch . Fenix does it a little bit … but is not outstanding.

    Also I am would like to understand more about the HR hardware for swim. Can eventually the Fenix, with all the updates needed in its software, be able to work during a swim? Or would a change in hardware be required? How does Suunto accomplished this?

    • Dmitry V.

      This was already discussed several times in other comments on this page – just do a quick read through them.
      E.g. there are some confirmations that Garmin will skip Fenix 4 name and will jump to Fenix 5 or something else (due to some cultural issues around 4 in China).
      In terms of dates, I think it is most likely to be somewhere next year. But don’t forget that they have not finished full roll-out of F3HR in all markets yet 🙂

      In terms of smart-watch – what specifically do you mean/want? It has notifications, can control music, support apps (lots of apps). Do you want it to become a “market general” smart watch that works 1-2 days? 🙂

      “Can eventually the Fenix, with all the updates needed in its software, be able to work during a swim?”
      I don’t think that even Garmin would be able to answer this question 🙂 (and there is a solution – 2 different HR-straps for swimming)

    • Andres

      Thanks Dmitry, I did several searches for Fenix4, Fenix 4, Fenix+4 but got nothing back … Ray … opportunity to improve the search engine!

      Still how is the HW from Suunto different from Garmins?

    • Dmitry V.

      ” I did several searches for Fenix4, Fenix 4, Fenix+4 but got nothing back”

      I meant – on this page, in comments above. Just press Ctrl+F, type “fenix 4” and read what was discussed here, in comments to this article. Or even just better go through all comments on this page, as there is lots of useful info.

  51. Fred

    Love your reviews as always! Keep finding you have done reviews of many “gadgets” I am looking to buy,

    And this time It has come to the Garmin Fenix 3 HR…

    It would be nice to have a nice watch as well as the 24×7 HR monitoring that I am keen to try out.

    HOWEVER – can the watch store that data and “sync” it with the app on occasion – or does it need to have a constant connection to get the 24×7 monitoring? Since I need to turn my BT off on my smartphone from time to time – I would like the watch to be “self sufficient” on the matter. Is this possible?

    Looking forward to and thank you for your replies!

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Dmitry V.

      “can the watch store that data and “sync” it with the app on occasion”
      Yes, sure. It has built-in memory.

      “or does it need to have a constant connection to get the 24×7 monitoring?”
      This watch works as independent device, collecting data either from built-in or connected sensors. BT is optional if yo, e.g. need notifications from your phone.

    • Fred

      @Dmitry V.

      Thank you for your reply! 🙂

      Just to be clear – so when I connect the app on my smartphone after it have collected HR the last 24hrs – the watch will sync to the phone and I can see all the stats and graphs there?

    • Dmitry V.

      Why only 24h? F3/F3HR has 32MB of built-in memory in total out of which approximately 22-23MB are available for your data/apps. 24h of HR data will be several kilobytes, I suppose.

    • Fred

      24hrs is just an example (you can pick a number that pleases you).
      The main question was if it transfer all the data to the smartphone/pad app to view stats and graphs once connected again (just as it have been connected all along)? 🙂

      Thanx again!


  52. Frank

    Hi! Regarding the table of features in the review, after a few weeks of cycling under various conditions, I got a pleasant surprise. The watch alerted me with “New cycling VO2max detected.” So it does do cycling vo2max estimation.

  53. Ed Vega

    Hi, is there a way to customize Screen Fields ?

    Also to customize Activity Profiles ? or add additional ones ?

  54. Mariam U

    Thanks for the great review/comparison in these watches. I do hit work out at the gym and I’m a runner. I want to buy the fenix 3 hr to track my calories burn and my running without using a heart rate band .. Is this too much watch for me or would it be just perfect for what I’m looking for? I thanks in advance 🙂

    • Gianluca Musumeci

      Hi Miriam. I use Fenix HR for nearly everything since more than a month. Once I used a Fitbit Surge. Fenix HR is VERY GOOD in capturing steps, walking and heart rate 24h/7d, but during activities in the gym, the optical heart rate is VERY imprecise (btw always better than Fitbit). For example, during a weight session at the gym, with WHR my average was 80bpm. With the band, it was 115. Same kind of training, same exercises, same day of the week, same reps and series.
      On cardio training WHR is about a 5-7% lower and less reactive than heart rate.
      So, if you want a generic evaluation of your caloric burning, Fenix HR is absolutely the best product. If you want something more precise, I suggest you to buy also a heart rate band (I bought HRM-TRI for gym, running, cross fit, bike and open water swimming, and HRM SWIM for swimming pool).

  55. Cameron

    Awesome review.
    I’m looking at the HR vs the regular Fenix3 (sapphire titanium). Thing is my main competitive sport is rowing. I’ve used a mio and a Fitbit Charge HR and find the HR a little unreliable. It’s probably due to the use of the wrist/arm action in the process of rowing. Any comments on tests in rowing athletes? I’m tempted to stick to the Fenix3 with HR chest strap, but would love your feedback.

    • Chappo

      I’ve used the F3HR optical HR with a Concept2 erg, and you will need to use a chest strap to get a decent HR reading.

  56. Jay


    I think you made an error on this sentence: “A prime example being this run from a few weeks ago, where the Fenix3 HR shortly after starting went for a swim around some 8-10 story buildings.”. Maybe you wanted to say biking or running around some 8-10 buildings?

    Great review, so deep as usual. 🙂


    • In that paragraph I was (attempting) to explain that as I ran past some 8-10 story buildings, the unit went for a swim in the river seen in the picture below, without explanation.

  57. Jorge

    Hey Ray, any insider knowledge about implementation of MoveIQ in the Fenix 3 HR? Cheers.

  58. ross

    trying to decide between fenix hr and vivoactive hr. my main activities are mountain bike and walking. i’m pretty hard on stuff, plus i have poor eyesight. Lots of reviews on the vivo say the display sucks. haven’t heard much either way on the fenix. also was worried about durability. I’m pretty hard on stuff and wondering if the vivo would be more prone to breaking?

  59. Rob

    On the Dutch Garmin website (and some Dutch webshop) they now talk about a Garmin 3 HR Silver, which is about 50,00 euro cheaper then then Sappier HR model.

    link to buy.garmin.com

  60. William

    Great review Ray,
    As an avid sailor who loves the outdoors as well as biking, the quatix 3 seemed like a perfect fit for me.
    However, the only thing stopping me from getting it, (besides the price:) ), is that fact that it doesn’t have an optical hr sensor option.
    Any thoughts on whether they will do the same to the quatix 3 as they did to the fenix 3 and add optical hr?
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  61. Riz

    Great reviews Ray.
    Well done, keep it up

  62. Rob Williams

    Great review as always, Ray.

    I just want to ask two questions, I’ve recently upgraded to the Fenix 3 HR from the standard Fenix3 but cannot see the HR activity screen in Garmin Connect even though the Fenix3 is paired and set as the active activity tracker.

    The second issue I have is the disparity in sleep data shown between the Fenix3 and my fitbit. I’m not saying the fitbit is more accurate necessarily, (or that either is terribly precise regarding sleep data) but they aren’t even close in what they record. For example, last night fitbit reported a total of 4hr min sleep (3 x awake 17 x restless) whereas Garmin reported 8 Hr 31 min sleep (2.23 hrs deep, 5.53hrs light, 15 min awake) My question is, with such a variance, which would you think it’s likely to be more accurate?

    • Thanks Rob.

      RE: HR Graph

      Hmm, that’s odd. Do you see 24×7 HR data on the HR widget if you press up/down on the watch faces? I could see a scenario where perhaps the optical HR sensor is off?

      RE: Sleep

      Hard to say which one is correct without more data. For last night, given such a wide difference – did you sleep 4 hours or 8 hours? 😉

    • Rob Williams

      Hi Ray

      I do see HR data on the HR widget. I just noticed after taking my watch off it still was reading my HR even though it was on the able for about 30sec – 1 min. I would have thought it would cut out straight away. But regarding the missing HR data on the app, I’m just wondering whether I should delete Garmin Connect from the iPhone and reinstall it

      Regarding sleep, hard to say. I was in bed for 8 hours and both the garmin and the fitbit HR were closer in that regard. However, Fitbit basically has me awake for half that time whereas Garmin is reading I was sleeping for the full time.

  63. Tommy Haywood

    Hi Ray.

    Do you know if there is a non sapphire version of the HR now? I’ve found a great deal online but it’s silver in the picture as opposed to dark grey

    Many thanks

    • Hi Tommy-

      There’s a new variant now available on European markets, which is a silver Fenix3 HR without the Sapphire glass. It’s not available in the US market.

      Your post reminded me that Clever Training Europe now carries this new variant, which is available here: link to clevertraining.co.uk

      You can also use the DCR Coupon Code to save 10% as well – DCR10BTF (no need for VIP stuffs for CT Europe). Free shipping and all that jazz too.

    • Tommy Haywood

      Thanks Ray. I knew the price was too good to true (£350)

      I actually prefer the silver colour. Not sure if sapphire is really worth the extra cash

    • Dmitry V.

      Possible they have not updated their sites properly, but:
      link to buy.garmin.com
      Part Number: 010-01338-77
      218 x 218 pixels; transflective MIP color; sapphire lens

      link to gooutdoors.co.uk (silver)
      sapphire lens

      They could get lots of returns if it is not sapphire. Or will be sending gifts to calm down customers 🙂

    • The Garmin site appears correct (two different versions, one Sapphire non-Silver, then Silver non-Sapphire), the Cotsworld does not appear correct. I think they just copied/pasted the spec sheet from the other one.

      I know the Clever Training folks were really clear with me (after Garmin was really clear with them) that the new Silver HR one is non-Sapphire.

      As for being worth it – no, not at all in my opinion.

    • Heather Riley


      Do you know if/when this is coming to US markets, the Fenix 3HR Silver, that is? That is what I have been waiting for. Already have Fenix 3 Silver, just want it with OHR. Thanks!

    • vladimir

      Hi Ray. Can i see battery level HRM on Fenix3hr?

    • Heather – My understanding is not at this time. It’s not very logical to me, but…I don’t make such decisions.

      Vladimir – Not of an external HR strap.

  64. Chris

    Go outdoors have the new silver face ones for £386 in the uk if you have a discount card.

    • Tommy Haywood

      Plus another 10% discount code on that plus 8% cash back. Or the sapphire for 370 from Cotswold outdoor (using 20% code) and 7% cash back. Basically the sapphire works out £25 ish more. Worth it?

    • Dmitry V.

      £25 extra for sapphire crystal is a bargain. Usually it is £80-100 extra.
      I’m sad they still don’t have a F3HR with silver (uncoated) bezel and sapphire crystal. But from my experience with watches, mineral glass is absolutely not that bad. And anyway for tough courses and workouts you will apply a protective film.

    • Chris

      Tommy, do you have this 20% discount code in Cotswold?

    • Tommy Haywood

      Yep 🙂

      Google is your friend. Technically its a members code (but works for everyone) so i don’t want to publish it here

    • Dmitry V.

      And further 10% till the end of Tuesday. Making it £353.29 (incl £5 for discount card)

  65. Dan

    Great review, Ray. I really like my VivoActive HR but I think I’m going to make the jump to the Fenix 3 HR. I’m probably the only one on here who runs bird dogs, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming tie-in with the Garmin dog GPS units. I’ve long wanted something like the Varia Vision to connect with my handheld. Hopefully that’s coming one of these years, but the Fenix 3 will still be a nice upgrade.
    (As a side note, I can’t seem to get the “click here to Subscribe without commenting” link to work.)

  66. Chris h

    Try. Afd20 on the cots world website.

  67. okrunner

    Has anyone tried the dive app on the Connect store? I downloaded it today but not diving anytime soon but wanted a review of anyone who has used it as a backup dive computer. Really nice expansion of usefulness of the F3hr if it works well. Thanks.

  68. Ryan Nash

    Ray & anyone else who can help!

    Do you know if you can/any future plans to be able to disable the 24/7 OHR monitoring? To help battery life.

    I will almost always use a chest strap for most of my activities. Just trying to decide between the Fenix and Fenix HR. Main reason for monitoring HR for me would be to record RHR daily, but i could just do this with a strap every morning…

    • Tommy Haywood

      Settings>sensors>wrist heart rate>off

    • Tommy Haywood

      I wouldn’t bother with HR version if I were you. You can use NATO bands then and save a bunch of cash

    • Ryan Nash

      Cheers Tommy.

      So I’m guessing the HR monitoring widget doesn’t show up when you’ve turned the OHR off?

      I was under the impression that you can turn it off for activities but it still turns itself on throughout the day, at varying intervals to ‘monitor’ HR.

      Thanks, Ryan.

  69. thats a great review!
    i have the suunto ambit 2 for a while (almost two years now) and i must say for my needs its more than awesome. kind of intresting in having this garmin fenix 3 hr and like its hr sensor without having to wear a cheast strap. but its intresting how things will go with the new spartan model suunto announced.

  70. Kooiboy

    I received my F3 HR last friday and got the chance to play with it. Here is so far my opinion on it.
    I love the built of the watch, is feels like a very robust watch and also it looks very good! I can see me changing the watchfaces from time to time. The customizations of the watch is great! As fo the HR, I cannot tell yet I still need to check it in a run.

    The biggest disappointment (and could be even a big deal breaker) is that the GPS isn’t that great. Comparing it the my Fitbit Surge, it seems that the Surge is more accurate as it always quite followed the roads I walked (even with GLONASS turn on). This was quite surprising to me actually
    I read that turning Data saving (in settings) to each second instead of smart would increase accuracy, but still the Surge has a better outcome.

    Anyone have any tips how to increase the accuracy of the Fenix 3? I’m running the latest firmware.
    Overal I’m happy with the watch but I really hope the F3 will outshine the GPS in the end…


    • It’s not sure how much you’ve used it yet, but if only a run – then one thing I’d look at is whether the 2nd run will be better. The Fenix3 ‘soaks’, which means that it downloads additional satellite data which can help inaccuracy. That process takes about 20 minutes. So out of the box it’ll get better on the 2nd activity.

      Second, if you’ve only tried GLONASS, try turning it off. In some odd cases, GLONASS will make it worse. It’s very rare, but FWIW.

    • ok runner

      I’m seeing the same thing. Tried a second run tonight with 1 second sampling and turned Glonass on and still the same thing. The tracks on Garmin Connect for the F2hr look like I’m running drunk. Goes from one side of the road to the other all the time. Fellrnr reports this as a problem with the F3 and F3hr. The distance ultimately looks fine but the track is horrible. The tracks on viewed on Garmin Connect recently with my Tom Tom Spark are perfect in comparison. I will say, however, that the F3Hr tracks do look better than my most recent tracks from my Fenix 1st gen. By further comparison, my Motoactv, which I haven’t used since last year was better than both Garmins but not as good as the Tom Tom Spark. Maybe it’s a small thing but it bothers me that the Tom Tom can perfectly place me on a six or eight foot walking trail for miles and yet the Garmin that costs now 3 times as much ($599 versus $199, and that’s $199 for the most expensive version) shows me at times on the other side of a two lane highway adjacent to the trail, in my estimation nearly sixty or more feet away. I’ll turn Glonass off and leave 1 second recording on and try again. FYI, I’m in Northwest Oklahoma in a relatively small town with very few trees and absolutely not a single tall building. If it won’t get good results here, god forbid I go to the mountains or city with it. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic sharp fun watch with some incredible features. Really love the nearly instantaneous bluetooth or wifi sync of activities.

    • ok runner

      I obviously meant F3hr in the second sentence.

    • ok runner

      I went further back and looked at tracks from my 305. Those are about the same as my Fenix first gen and maybe marginally better than the F3hr. I guess the real question is why the he** does the Tom Tom Spark appear so much better when looking at satellite images on Garmin Connect than the F3hr? I would admit I need to look at more tracks from the F3hr but I’ve got months worth on the Tom Tom and it’s nearly flawless.

    • Ok runner

      Here’s a more scientific review of what I’m talking about with the F3 accuracy. link to sporttracks.mobi Seems his conclusion is the same as mine, Tom Tom is beating the crap out of Garmin in the one area that created our desire for gps watches – distance and location accuracy. I still love the F3hr but not for its accuracy.

  71. Rfb

    Hi guys,
    I’ve been considering getting the fenix 3 for a while now. I’ve been using the vivoactive since January and had a vivosmart for a year before that. Is the fenix 3 saphire worth getting? Or would the regular edition suffice? I was reading a review from someone else who said the black bezel has really thin paint and that it scratches really easily. Is that true as well? I’m currently leaning towards a silver with red silicon band fenix 3. Will take the plunge once I get it for around 500 cad taxes in.
    I play soccer and mostly run/bike. When I play soccer I usually have a sweatband over my va to prevent any scratches from falls.

    • I personally don’t believe the Sapphire is worth the price, though some swear by it. Even when whacking the screen against concrete and walls, I’ve had no issues.

      You’re more likely to scratch the bezel than the glass.

    • Dmitry V.

      Sapphire is much tougher. Although it also can be scratched. From the other hand, you can potentially polish the mineral glass, but this will be almost impossible with sapphire. And I think that it is a good idea to use protective film for tough events.

      It is not a paint on dark bezel, the coating is of a different kind and it is strong. But only several microns thick, so – yes, it can be scratched. Easy or not – depend on how you use it. My experience with other watches shows that it is almost impossible to to get scratches to a PVD coating in more than a year.

      So for me potential scratches on bezel are more important, so I ordered F3HR with “silver” (uncoated) bezel. It also can be scratched (there are no miracles), but they will be less visible. And if you are considering non-HR version, you have much broader choice.

    • Thomas D

      I’ve had the black Fenix 3 non-sapphire for about a year, and used it as my everyday watch as well as for training and hiking/trail running. Hiking/trailrunning includes scrambles up (easy) rock faces. The bezel has gotten quite a few scratches and looking slightly worn (but in a kinda cool way, I think it adds some ‘patina’ to it). Also, the glass has gotten two thin/fine, minor scratches. Nothing that impedes screen visibility, but they’re there. After a few more years, I guess there would be quite a few scratches.

      I’ve now recently gotten the Fenix 3 HR Sapphire. I can’t comment on durability yet, but I expect it to get the same micro scratches on the bezel, but I really don’t mind that. And I’m happy to have the sapphire glass so I don’t have to worry about getting that scratched up.

    • Paul

      Hi, I was wondering how you managed to order the F3HR with a silver bezel, I haven’t seen that option anywhere? Also, would be cool if you could post a picture of how it looks. I’ve held off getting any wearable, but if I could get the F3HR in titanium or silver, I think I would jump for it….I love the idea of a smart watch perfect for sport but also capable of a traditional look.

  72. D. P

    Are you hearing any rumors about a Fenix that includes a SIM card? how many years out do we think we are? My F3 is pretty beaten up and am thinking about a replacement but if a SIM variant is in the not so distant future…..

    • I wouldn’t expect it to happen till eSim type technology allows it to be totally internal with no waterproofing concerns (a door adds lots of concerns).

      In discussions with Garmin in the past, they’ve noted the hell that is trying to deliver a device on telcom networks from a certification standpoint.

  73. Jorge

    Hi Ray,

    do you have any info or an idea on timeline or plans to bring MoveIQ (automatic recognition of walking/running/cycling to the Fenix 3 (HR)? I was kind of assuming that’d be there as the cheaper vivoactive has it.

  74. Luca

    Great review, thanks!

    I have one question: will the HR sensor be accurate during trail running? I mean vertical kilometers or other uphill mountain races where you also need to push your knees with your hands or use carbon poles.

    Thanks for the help.

  75. Miquel Casas

    Nice review! Thanks for sharing!

  76. Miquel Casas

    Sorry. I made typo on my email address for the previous comment. Anyway, thanks for sharing the review

  77. Sarah

    Love it!

  78. Dushko Kantardjiev

    Both f3 standard and HR are rather budgeting, even more than a year after release

  79. Waldek Niemczuk

    Garmin Fenix 3 – chcę go.

  80. Nils Mungan

    I recently went on a 10 day long canoe trip. There is no app for that, but I figured that the new “SUP” (stand-up paddle-boarding app) was the closest fit. It did record the route and speed correctly, but it would not record the strokes. Why not? Do I need a sensor for that? I thought if the swim app can detect strokes through the built-in accelerometers, why not the SUP app? Also, why is there no canoe or at least kayaking app? I think these activities are more popular than outdoor rowing or SUP.

  81. Jesper

    Does the Fenix 3 somehow come with an all black look, but without being the HR- or the Taxtic-model?

    • Dmitry V.

      Black strap is the most basic one. Default body colour is also black. So the only thing left is bezel which it plain metal (silver) or PVD coated (grey-ish). So, depending on what exactly you need (“grey-ish” or completely black), answer will be different. (and “yes” in case of simple PVD-coating, as this is the basic model)

  82. moe


    I have an Ambit 3 Peak. I am becoming extremely bored with it due to low resolution and I am thinking of buying a Fenix 3 HR. However I heard I can not change the display settings through the website and I have to do it through on the watch.. is that true?

    • Dmitry V.

      On Fenix? Depending on what settings you mean. E.g. for built-in watch-faces (digital and analogue) you change settings from the watch. For additional from ConnectIQ (the rest of them) – from computer or smartphone.

  83. Chris Wilson

    Great review, thanks.
    On the GPS accuracy, I have a Fenix3 and find it constantly over measures the distance due to tracking wandering. A number of times I have concurrently worn my old 620 to check if its buildings/terrain interference. The 620 produces a better result and closer to race distance. Have had Fenix3 replaced twice by Garmin, to their credit, but it is appears to be inherent problem and have given up. Everything else about the Fenix3 is great but poor GPS accuracy is annoying.

  84. Sergiu

    You get a lot of emails and you probably won’t answer my email, but…

    I’ve just lost my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak while flying my paraglider.

    If you didn’t own a Fenix watch yet, which one, Fenix 3 or Fenix 3 HR, would you buy, considering the price difference and almost the same feature package?

    Thank you

    • Dmitry V.

      How can anyone know if optical HR important for you or not? 🙂

      I decided that it will be useful to me (24h heart rate logging, occasional workouts without HR belt etc), so I bought F3HR with “silver” bezel.

    • Chris

      Sergiu it depends on whether you want 24/7 activity monitoring. That doesn’t interest me and besides I wouldn’t wear the big Fenix to bed. My main use is for running so I wear the HR strap for running dynamics plus HR so optical is not required. I can see advantages for my MTB activities but I still don’t mind wearing the strap. I would probably save the $100 difference.

    • okrunner

      If you are not going to use it for 24/7 monitoring, smart watch features, extra apps such as hiking, triathlon, diving, etc. and your main use is running then between the f3 and f3hr I would choose the Tom Tom Spark Cardio. I own the f3hr and Tom Tom Spark Cardio. For just running, again to be clear, FOR JUST RUNNING, the Tom Tom is superior. Lighter weight, way more comfortable running, satellite lock and Bluetooth sync are equal, music is a great bonus, and I think the heart rate monitoring and accuracy are slightly better with the Tom Tom. For everything else, i.e. most other sports, triathlon, and those things I mentioned above, the F3hr.

  85. Hans

    Hi Ray!

    Did you ever test the workouts for swimming on this device ? is there a limit on the number of steps you can transfer from garmin connection ?


  86. ok runner

    I’ve complained earlier on the accuracy of the F3HR. Today I ran near Cavendish, PEI with both the FEHR and the Tom Tom Spark. I think this was a difficult but fair comparison. One on the right wrist and one on the left. Difficult in that it was cloudy and there is some tree coverage along a good portion of the route. I loaded both tracks to Google Earth to compare after uploading to the usual sites. I added a screen shot of a portion for reference. The F3HR in red and the Tom Tom Spark in blue. The F3HR, as per my previous complaints as mirrored by many others complaining of it or the F3, shows me at times 40 or 50 feet from the trail, across roads, etc. Whereas the Tom Tom is consistently much much better having me on or near the trail at all times. Is this normal? Is this your experience with the F3 or F3HR? Is the Tom Tom really that much better at location accuracy? The F3HR was set on 1 second recording and Glonass off. Distance wise, they were nearly or literally identical. I felt the F3HR heart rate was wonky for the first half-mile to mile. Thereafter they tracked within 2 beats of each other. The F3HR had me at a 157 average heart rate and the TT at 160. Maybe it’s not important on a training run but these tracks just look horrible.

    • Dmitry V.

      “The F3HR was set on 1 second recording and Glonass off.”
      Just for easier comparison, have you tried the same with Glonass on? (the other thing that will effect accuracy is whether the watch was able to download the almanac (satellite position) 1-2 days before the run)

      I’ve done a short run yesterday with f3HR and it was within 1-3m of my actual path. (although it told me that I started with approx. 86km/h – don’t remember ever running so fast 🙂 )

    • okrunner

      I had updated satellite information to both watches just minutes before the run as I wanted to see which achieved a lock faster. Neither was significantly faster than the other. As for Glonass, I was seeing the same thing earlier with Glonass on. It does not seem to effect the accuracy with Glonass on or off.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s normal, nor what I usually got in terms of track performance. But at the same time, as I showed in the review – you can get the oddball track moment every once in a long while. Which…is true of virtually any GPS watch.

      I’m typically more interested in ‘why’ a GPS watch went off-track. Was it a tough spot? Or was it just an open field? Was there a turn that it missed? Etc..

  87. Alanna

    Have you looked at validating the jump height feature or the other performance variables?

  88. Supratim

    Does Fenix 3 HR support Pool Swims in the Triathlon/Multisport mode ? Fenix 2 doesn’t.

  89. Supratim

    I am using a Fenix 2 right now, and one of the issues I face while I am using it, is that it stops showing the ‘actual time’ and only show ‘activity time’. Is there a way that can be configured ? Actually, sometimes I would also want to see the ‘current speed’ in stead of ‘avg speed’. Is there a way to toggle between these ?

    And in Fenix 3 ?

    • Okrunner

      Certainly the F3hr does through different field data or the multitude of custom fields in the Connect IQ app store. Have the Fenix 1 which is similar to the 2, and my recollection is you should be able to custmize enough pages and data fields to do it but I’ll let someone else weigh in on that. You would certainly enjoy the F3hr more than the 2 as the Fenix 1 and to a lesser extent 2 were the biggest piles of crap Garmin ever produced. Although I hear Epic owners might disagree. 1 and 2 were beta tests for 3, your welcome Garmin for my $400 on that F1 and two years of beta testing on two different watches niether of which would ever work correctly. Though not perfect the F3hr is a step in the right direction.

  90. Laurence Cuinu

    You’re a busy chap! Thanks for all the info.
    I have a wee request…..how do you extract the heart rate data and merge into one chart for comparison? I found a site that extracts the data from a TCX file, however, then getting that tweaked file into a chart is beyond me. I have a Mio Link that appears much more accurate…attached to a 910XT, and am trying different wrist positions/tightness (or may even try a little shaving) to get a decent reading comapred to the Mio (don’t have a chest HR)
    Regards from chilly Scotland

  91. Mo

    BestBuy.com (and also on eBay) has 25% off performance bundle: $487.49 (25% off). Many other options are also 25% off including titanium (599$)

  92. Jim Pettipher

    Hi, love your reviews! I am looking to replace my dead Garmin Vivosmart with another Garmin product. I’m a cyclist (have Edge 1000) but complication is I’m also a rower. I used to use the Vivosmart with my Garmin chest strap to record activities when in the boat (danger of losing device into the water if strap not good) and on the indoor rowing machine. I’m keen to keep the accuracy of using the chest strap rather than relying on the wrist sensor. Contacted Garmin, they suggested Vivoactive HR (can download rowing profile apparently?) but I’m unconvinced. Maybe the Fenix 3 or 3HR would be better / last longer? What do you think? Incidentally, indoor rowing a massive global market. Surprised neither Garmin nor others seem interested? Your thoughts?

    • Dmitry V.

      If you can afford F3 or F3HR – then why not? It is top of the range device and is definitely very tough (will definitely survive more, compared to Vivoactive HR).

      And even if you will be using a chest strap (which is obviously a good idea, for accuracy), HR-sensor in f3HR will provide 24h pulse monitoring that can be handy.

    • theboxers

      I used a fr235 on a recent canoe trip, I setup a base non specific activity. The distance was quite close to what it should be, we ping pong’d from bank to bank. I am unsure about the HR as it was the first time I’d used it in that situation.

      I have used the fr235 as a backup for my edge 1k/scosche rhythm+ when doing indoor cycle turbo sessions and they track fairly close most of the time.

  93. Rob S

    Thanks for taking the time to write such thorough and in-depth reviews. I’ve been looking for a ‘smart’ gps watch to replace my nike gps+ running watch that I used not only for running, but to time laps in the pool, as well as speed and course while sailing and kiteboarding.

    I live in a condo highrise and the pool in our building is only about 12-13m long. I swim nearly every day, and I miss being able to time my laps as it helps motivate me to push myself harder. It amazes me that the watch only supports 17m and longer pools. Is this watch usable for lap swimming in a smaller pool or will it simply just not work correctly? Since its indoor and not using GPS, what does the pool size really matter? Shouldn’t it all be based on the motion of the accelerometer and sensing when the person reaches the other side? Perhaps it will just give me inaccurate speed reading (it thinks I’ve gone 17m in 20s when I really went 13m in 20s), but I don’t really care about speed, I just care about seeing how my current lap stacked against the previous lap, and what my total time to complete N number of laps is.

    Is this watch something that would be useful for what I’m looking to do? If its able to just track the time on my swim splits I’ll be more than happy. It also seems like it would be great for kiteboarding and sailing as its waterproof and fairly ruggedized, and the app support for those activities is pretty good.

    Lastly, I can’t decide if I should go with the HR version or the now discounted Fenix 3 sans heartrate. It’s tempting to get the newest, but I don’t know that I really need to track my heartrate all the time, especially if there are occasional blips in recording which pretty much means the data isn’t really that useful. I mean it seems like you could track your daily caloric burn with this to know how many calories you can intake while still maintaining a steady weight. But if it stops recording for 2 hours out of the day, then that metric is all screwed up and can’t really be relied on, right? So I think at this point the cheaper, lighter Fenix 3 is probably the watch for me.

    Would love to hear your feedback!


  94. Chris Bresloff

    Great Review. I enjoyed reading it. I am currently waiting to receive my new unit FHR3!!

  95. Sol

    No one does better reviews!
    Seeked high & low for the sale you mention on the fenix 3 hr sapphire and couldn’t find it anywhere. Could you point me in the right direction if you get this before 7/18?
    Thank you!

  96. DCRoe

    Are they going to come out with a Titanium version of the Fenix 3 HR? Also, when is the next (presumably Fenix 4 going to be coming out?)

    • Dmitry V.

      There is very big chance that Garmin will skip model “4” in Fenix line – mentioned several times in this thread. And in terms of “when” – they are just finishing rolling out F3HR in some markets, so isn’t it a bit early? (also I can bet “next year” is the right answer)

      In terms of Titanium with HR. Was waiting for it but then just bought f3HR “silver”. Adding titanium band will be cheaper (and quicker) compared with Titanium version. And the difference is only in bezel and glass. (and I could argue that steel uncoated bezel is better)

  97. Brian Hamilton

    I used the Fenix 3 watch during the 2016 New York City half marathon and Chicago Rock & Roll half marathon. The Fenix 3’s gps overestimated my running pace by 2 to 3 minutes per mile in the portions of the race courses with lots of high rise buildings during both races. I don’t have this issue with other garmin watches.

  98. Jack

    Wow, I was planning on posting the same thing. Ran the Chicago rock and roll this past weekend and my data is all screwed up as well. Shows I ran 15 miles. The gps was way off. Luckily i tralized this error early on in the race and did not pay attention to my pace since it was wonky. I just managed my heart rate as it was accurate (with strap). should I have used the glonass feature?

  99. angel

    is there any benefit (snappier interface, improved accuracy, etc) to deleting/purging old activities from the fenix 3’s memory? all the runs, races, miles and laps that i’ve done since i purchased the watch earlier this year are still on it.

  100. Ray

    How critical is Garmin’s suggested placement above the wrist bones? That is not where I typically wear my watch.

  101. Denis B


    My V800 die this morning and I don’t if I buy another one or an other watch.
    Is the fenix 3 ‘s gps ok with the latest firmware ?

    I’ve some friends who had fenix 3 last year, and it was awful !

  102. Sonny Khlane

    Just wondering if resting calorie screen it shows based on built-in optical HR or just resting HR based on age and weight or BMR. I mean HR has no role on calorie calculations when resting?

    Also i have Fenix 3. Can i make it Fenix 3 HR with an optional wrist optical HR like from mio. I currently do not see HR screen on Fenix 3, will it show if I attache one to it.

    • Kevin

      Hey Sonny. You can pair it with a 3rd party HRM. I don’t know specifically about the Mio, but most Ant+ devices will connect. I personally use the Scosche Rhythm+ HRM arm strap. It wears on the upper forearm near your elbow. It is FANTASTIC. It works very well with my Fenix 3. The HR does stay on the screen while I’m running. Hope that helps.

    • Dmitry V.

      “Can i make it Fenix 3 HR with an optional wrist optical HR like from mio”
      Not exactly, as 24h HR works only with build-in sensor. (continuous Ant+ data transfer is not very good for battery)

  103. kpcski

    In my 4 nights since using the 3.34 Firmware (beta) for the GF3HR, the sleep tracking is SUBSTANTIALLY improved. KC

  104. moe

    Hi I have an Ambit 3 and the Suunto Smart belt, would that work with a Fenix 3 HR?

  105. Kevin

    In my experience if the device has Ant+ technology it should connect. There are however some that will not. I’m sorry I can’t help more than that. Good luck!

  106. Mike

    Ray – would you still recommend buying the Fenix 3 HR based on the timing of Garmin product releases? I don’t want to buy one and have it updated in two months.


    • I would not expect a new F3HR model anytime soon. The current one just came out this past winter, and even at a one-year release cycle cadence (if that happens), it’d be CES 2017 (January). But keep in mind a January announcement likely means a Feb/March availability. Just like in years past.

      I suppose it’s possible we’ll see something new sooner, but that would basically require Garmin to announce by October to hit the holiday buying period. Last year they did that, but it was with devices that were all two years old. Off-hand I can’t think of any major Garmin device that’s had less than 12 month refresh cycle.

  107. theboxers

    I wish I could have got one through your site links and I know I’m gonna regret getting one today as they are going to launch the F4 shortly, my luck is like that. But the best price I’ve found for the Silver F3 HR on Friday in the UK was with Go Outdoors @£349 delivered, with discount card and promo code. Ordered it Friday evening and it arrived @10am this morning.

    I’ve not got a lot done today at work and I’m still messing with it now. The differences between the FR235 and the F3 HR in steps are minimal (I was wearing an FR235 this morning). I just need to get all the sensors recognised by the F3 HR.

    • Dmitry V.

      “as they are going to launch the F4 shortly”
      You should be joking :). Even if they will release something in January, we wont see it here in the UK till March-April next year. (got mine via Go Outdoors last month as well)

  108. Rowan Demmer

    Hi Ray, thanks for the brilliant reviews as always. i have a question with regarding the navigation of the Fenix 3HR

    I do a bit of fishing off a kayak in the sea, and was wondering if i would be able to download coordinates to the watch and then navigate to them while using the rowing function?

    Anyone else use it for a similar application?

    • Joseph

      You can do this, but it’s not straightforward or easy. The Fenix 3 only syncs with Garmin Connect, and there is no easy way to draw waypoints or tracks in it. It sort of sucks.

      It’s a great watch, but to me it’s not an outdoor or mountaineering watch anymore. It’s a sportswatch that looks good.
      There’s a workaround with the Dynamic Watch app, that does work quite well loading waypoints and routes directly. Also the zoomlevels are easier to work with than the internal navigation on the Fenix 3.

      But at that point you might as well buy a Vivoactive Hr for a third of the price and load the app on that. That’s my protip for today: buy the Vivoactive Hr and load the DWmaps app on that and it will be much better than a stock Fenix 3 for navigation.

    • Alex C.

      Just found this IQ widget: link to apps.garmin.com
      Have not tried out yet, but it looks like it could help

  109. Hi Ray
    Thanks very much for another great review 🙂

    I am thinking of replacing my V800 with Garmin Fenix 3 HR, because I i need ANT+ for my spinning bike. I also like the feature 24/7, but is that data also used for the Recovery Adviser?
    What is your experience with the Recovery Adviser? I don’t think the one on V800 is perfect :-/

    Thanks very much in advance

  110. iflyskyhigh

    I am on my third Fitbit Charge HR. Fitbit has luckily replaced it each time, but to say they are built to the lowest standard possible is an understatement. That’s not to say I don’t love it. I’m just really hard on stuff. I sweat a lot, and I’m not careful about keeping things dry. The screen gets scratched to the point where it’s almost not readable, and the strap starts to separate from the watch body. I just ordered a Vioactive HR, but am now thinking maybe I should have ordered he Fenix 3 HR. I by no means need the features of the Fenix 3 , the Vioactive would be more than enough for what I what I need, but I’m concerned that I’m going to go through them as quick as I’ve gone through the Fitbit’s. I’m looking for a 24/7 activity tracker and something to keep up with my weekend warrior bike rides, walks, hikes, hunting, etc. I’ve looked at everyone on the market and come up with the Vioactive HR. So, anyone have any thoughts on that? I wish there was something in between. I need the build quality of the Fenix 3 HR more than I need the features. $250 to $599 is BIG jump. I’d gladly pay more for something with the features of the Vioactive HR, but built more towards he Fenix 3 quality. I just don’t see any options.

    • Dan

      I’ve had both the VAHR and the F3HR. Both are excellent devices. The VAHR is impressively durable for the pricepoint but the screen and casing will scratch. I think it would take some pretty significant abuse to actually break it, though. If durability is really your primary concern, the F3HR is a tank. I don’t see how you’d break it without breaking your wrist in the process.

  111. Chris

    Whats the best settings for a long ultra for battey life, talking 24hrs plus so will be using a charger at checkpoints/overnight stops. 1 second or smart recording (ultratrac not accurate enough) need OHR and the nav function running as a backup. Whats the longest duration it will do as some events can last upto 7 days nonstop clock running and upto 20 hrs between CP’s.



  112. Marek P

    Does it automatically start sleep tracking like 735xt? or like nonHR one it requires manual start?

    • Automagic. In fact, all Garmin devices are automatic now – even the older ones that previously required button pushing. It does it behind the scenes when you sync.

  113. Richie

    Does anyone know a creative way of getting my TrainingPeaks calendar onto my Fenix 3? It’s frustrating that Garmin Connect won’t allow me to import these (or am I missing something)? I know I can manually recreate the workouts in Garmin Connect and then send them to the watch, but that just seems like a lot of effort for something that should work seamlessly.

  114. okrunner

    My Fenix 3hr updated to software version 3.50 yesterday automatically. On the Garmin website it shows beta 3.40. Anybody know what this did or what the changes are? Certainly confused as previously I had not loaded the beta.

  115. Dimitris

    Ray, the HR version is not listed in Clever Training UK. Any ideas?

  116. Chris W

    All other things being equal (pros and cons to the fenix 3 vs hr model), I’m considering buying the hr model because it is newer and may have a longer lifetime (support from garmin, firmware updates). Do you think that this is sound logic: the HR will be supported for a longer time since it was released more recently, or would you think that both the fenix 3 and the hr version will be supported for about the same amount of time?
    I’m trying to get the watch that will last longer/not be a paperweight in 2 years…

  117. john

    Could you elaborate on the swimming auto-pause feature – it particularly interests me. Have you tested it? How accurate is it at detecting when you stop swimming for a rest and then continue again?

  118. Woo

    Hi Ray,
    I’m going for Fenix 3 HR, but there is one doubt that hangs there and this is regarding chest strap.
    It’s HRM-Run that is included in Performer bundle. I talked to Garmin support and it appears it is not good for swimming.
    They provide another two straps for swimming: HRM-Swim, but one for pool and other for open water. It costs around 200 EUR to get these two which seems insane.
    I don’t need NASA accuracy, just some speed, distance and heart rate in few mostly indoor sports, but road bike and open water swimming among them.

    Is there any substitute chest strap recommended by you, that works fine with Fenix 3 HR?

    You test them even on your forehead – you are the only guy who would know 😉

    • Dmitry V.

      “I talked to Garmin support and it appears it is not good for swimming.”
      Water will block Ant+ signal and HRM-Run can not store data to be transferred after the exercise.

      You can just get HRM-Swim (blue one). It works both in swimming pool and open water.
      HRM-Tri works in all modes, but will not last long in swimming pool (due to aggressiveness of the water chemicals).

    • Woo

      Thanks Dmitry,
      I don’t need the pool option so I figured out that HRM-Tri will be the one and only reasonable option.

    • Woo

      @Dmitry V. @Ray
      One more funny thing!
      I exchanged emails with Garmin support and they told me to go for more information to… DC Rainmaker blog :)))

  119. Dimantha Weliange

    Hi Ray

    I have a question. I do a lot of drills in the pool, these drills do not usually include doing any full laps, and the intervals are not regular. The actual exercise are pretty varied. How do I use the fenix 3 hr in this situation. Do I just put it on workout mode? Any assistance would be much appreciated.



  120. jochy pena

    does the Garmin Fenix 3 HR works with MYZONE Belt ?
    my gym uses MYZONE for the Indoor Cycling , will it work as i don’t want to loose my activity tracking in my connect app.

  121. mee

    it’s too big for women.

    • Dmitry V.

      Too big for some men as well. Although at least one woman posted here a photo of F3 on her hand, saying that she love it.

  122. José Peña

    I have a very small wrist 6″ and I was afraid it was going to look too big. But no, since I have it a wear it for all occasions even at semi formal activities that my work requires.

  123. Ovidiu

    If you use Navigate on a downloaded activity you can see the Elevation Plot Data Screen. If you try to race the same downloaded activity, you won’t get this kind of screen. It would be nice to see how are you performing agains that past race and also to see where you are on the course from the elevation profile point of view. Am I missing something? Is there any way you can do that? In navigation mode you won’t get the time difference between the current effort and the past one and that’s also a bummer.

  124. Smay

    So would you say this is THE watch for someone who wants those advanced running features w/o buying the heart strap?

  125. Michael Zielinski

    I recently updated to Firmware 3.50. It seems to me now i have fewer space for Connect IQ Extensiones.+
    The Number can be seen in Garmin connect Mobile / Garmin-Devices/ fenix 3 HR / Connect IQ apps / Manage Space
    It tells me i only have 8 Places… I think i had more in prior firmware-versions

  126. Kay


    I just received a Garmin Fenix3 HR (having had to relinquish my beloved recalled Basis Peak). Admittedly, I’d grown out of the Basis and am doing triathlons now – hence the Garmin optical HR interest as RHR is key for my training. I’ll be wearing both over the next couple weeks to compare data. However I did notice a significant difference in the GPS distance estimates between the GF3HR and my free Runtastic app on my iPhone 6. I ran 5K (3.11mi) per the former and 3.45mi per the latter. It’s a significant difference. Do you have any insight in the relative GPS distance accuracy between the two? I was trail running in a country park not surrounded by any tall buildings.

    Thanks in advance for your time!
    Kind regards,

    • The best bet is to look at teh track file and see which one best aligns to the actual route – also, validate whether you have features like 1-second recording turned on, and if GLONASS is enabled or disabled.

    • Kay


      Thanks very much. Being new to Garmin, it’s a lot to take in and knowing which terms to focus on (like Glonass and 1 second recording) has helped me track down those settings to change.

      On a separate note, I am watching my RHR and comparing Basis Peak RHR with the F3HR. There’s a significant difference and it’s not a consistent difference though for a while I was thinking F3HR may be 4bpm higher than my Basis Peak (that’s nearly 10% as my average RHR heart rate when fully recovered is 50+/-2). I think two of the differences in RHRs between the two watches comes from 1) the altimeter sampling frequency (per your post) as well as the fact that 2) I’m looking at the HR widget which I think displays a rolling RHR for the last 4 hours?

      For the former, altimeter sampling frequency, I agree with you in your review. I would most definitely sacrifice battery life for greater HR sleep and waking RHR accuracy. I spoke with Garmin customer service this morning who are sending me a way to make a suggestion to their software development team. I’m wondering if you have done something like this already or would like to collaborate on it as you are far more familiar with the product than I at this stage. I also tried to post on the Garmin Forums (subforurm on the F3HR) but it seems since I am so new the admin hasn’t fully enabled my ‘write’ access.

      For the latter, I’m wondering if there’s a way to reconfigure the F3HR HR widget to pull an additional data field specifying waking RHR? I am assuming waking RHR is a better measurement than rolling 4 hour RHR when judging how intense to train that day. I could be wrong on this but I am guessing, without much research into it, that waking RHR is a purer measure of whether the body is recovered enough to train at any point in time that day vs RHRs that are taken when the body isn’t moving but the mind is ‘working hard’ e.g. customer emails, calls, work etc . Any thoughts on this?

      Thanks in advance for your time again!
      All the best,

    • James L

      Kay – a couple of months ago, I spoke to Garmin support because I had just observed a large shift in my RHR that seemed to change the values that had been reported for several weeks by a significant amount – approximately 10 bhm, as I recall. Moreover, the values were inconsistent on the website, my iPhone, and the watch itself. After a lengthy discussion, I was told that the website had a mistake, and that it would be corrected in a coming software release. So, I have been waiting – now about two months later with the last release, my RHR is beginning to be consistent between the three locations. Oddly enough, it is like the value that I initially got on my iPhone. Perhaps, this is related to the differences that you are seeing? I am not sure, but it does appear that the most recent values of RHR are finally consistent between all of the different places that it is reported by Garmin.

    • kAy

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not experiencing the same situation as you. It does seem like the RHR readings have changed a bit after the first week of wearing it, maybe there’s a bit of learning curve with the algorithms.

      All the best,

  127. William A. Bornstein

    I posted my issues with altimeter/barometer/temperature on the Garmin fenix 3 HR forum yesterday but am posting here as well to see if Ray or anyone else can help.

    My fenix 3HR barometer, altimeter, and temperature readings suddenly froze at 8870.0, 63 feet, and 548 degrees respectively. Hard reset did not fix the problem. The thing is that I have had this happen on probably 6 or so Garmin devices, including Forerunners 910 and 920XT, fenix 2, fenix 3, and now fenix 3 HR. Garmin always replaces the device and says that this is an unusual problem. However, searching the web and forums on the topic, it turns out that there is an apparently small number of us who have this problem recurrently on multiple devices. Some describe fixing the problem by using soap and toothbrush to clean the ports. I haven’t had any luck with that approach, but I’ve been reluctant to be very vigorous. I take excellent care of the devices but I’m a heavy sweater and I do use sunscreen. I also swim in a salt water pool. It is interesting to me that I have found that certain brands of “waterproof” bluetooth ear phone fail recurrently on me, but others do not. I’ve assumed that too is from the heavy sweating. I do clean the Garmin devices in the shower after each workout.

    I would love more specific instructions from Garmin (or anyone else) on preventing this problem. I like having the barometric altimeter and temperature readings on the watch but replacing the device every few months is a hassle to say the least. Maybe I should just give up and switch to the Forerunner 735XT and do without those three functions?

  128. Gary H

    I’m looking to replace my basis b1 with the GF3HR. I also have an edge 1000 and it looks like this watch can replace both (I need power meter readings for my P1 pedals and G3 hub). I use the Basis mainly for its excellent sleep tracking abilities. Can anyone tell me how the sleep tracking compares between the two devices?

  129. Oscar

    Ray (or anyone)–

    Do you know how to shut off the ‘feature’ on the Fenix that auto-saves an activity when you’ve had it paused for too long? I’m getting pretty frustrated with this when I do longer activities like hiking and SUPing where I’ll take a break in the middle to stop/eat etc. The break is long enough that the activity has autosaved in the meanwhile forcing me to start a new activity when I resume, which is silly and not terribly useful for things like cumulative distance. I assume this is something new to the Fenix because my 910 never did this…


  130. JIm

    I bought the Fenix 3 Hr based on this review.
    After one monthof use I am very disapointed. The HR function doesn’t work for me. It stays at 80/90/100 for 15 to 60 minutes before it detects a more or less correct heartbeat. Are You doing something different that I missed?

  131. Dimitris

    Hi Ray,

    I posted the same in the Garmin forum but did not get any reply so I hope that I will get some help here.

    I just got the Fenix 3 HR, coming from a Forerunner 620 (and previously having the Forerunner 205).

    I went for the first run yesterday, but I found that the “current pace” keeps updating every second (with large fluctuations – I had GPS lock but Glonass was off) making this metric totally useless. I use the current pace for controlling my pace.

    I know some people might say that the “lap pace” should be used instead, but this how I am used to do my runs as the Forerunner 620 had really “smooth” transitions in the current pace with updates every few seconds (as opposed to Fenix updates every 1 sec) and pace values not varying more than a few secs between successive readings (at some firmware version the Forerunner 620 exhibited the same erratic behaviour which was fixed in the next firmware update).

    Is there any way to fix this or this is a know “bug” (or feature)? Is the current pace in all Fenix 3 HR behaving like this or there is something wrong with mine?

    Old Garmin watches like the 205 used to behave like this and I recall discussions in the 620 forum, that in newer watches Garmin had smoothen the “current pace” to make it useful to runners.

    • Matthew B.

      This is a symptom of the Fenix3’s somewhat poor GPS performance (it compensates well with algorithms and getting the distance corrected) but the “instant pace” has been inaccurate since it’s inception.

    • Dimitris

      So I assume that this the behaviour for all units, or is it worth to ask for RMA and exhange for another unit?


    • Matthew B.

      I personally owned 5 different Fenix3’s (regular and 1 HR) and they all had those symptoms. Others claim they great GPS performance. I would imagine they will all have the pace issues, but I don’t know. A common recommendation is to use lap pace (like you stated) or to get a foot pod and use pace from that. People start going down the path of “current pace via GPS is never accurate” etc etc., however, it worked moderately well (understanding the limitations) on all previous generations of Garmins and works well on Suuntos and Polars.

      tl;dr Maybe try getting a replacement, but I’m not positive it will help.

    • It does seem to vary though by people. Whether that’s environmental or not isn’t clear. I know somewhere around here I posted some video running with it, showing the instant pace was pretty darn stable for me (no footpod).

  132. Chris

    Does anyone have thoughts on the fenix 3 vs fenix 3hr and which one might last longer? The hr is a more recent release but maybe the hr function means there’s more to go wrong w it? I’d like to buy the one that is going to give me the longest, most usable life… Any opinions on these watches lasting 3+ years, with support?

  133. Tobias

    ever wonder how garmin get’s 59253km measured and still rated as “spot on” here … get a second opinion before you purchase …
    link to youtube.com

    • Odd, since I don’t think I used the term “spot on” anywhere here. But then again, spammers rarely read the content they’re spamming.

      If you’re having a hardware issue, as other commentors on your video noted, you should have it swapped out. Getting 59,253 isn’t good. But quite frankly everything I see shows Fenix3 as getting equal to, if not better GPS performance than the Suunto Spartan Ultra, depending on the sports your using.

    • tfa

      right Ray, always good if you compare apples with apples and not let your beloved Garmin devices run with a 1second GPS fix and competitors with a 3 second fixrate and complain how the Ambit3V put the GPS track into such worst accuracy but of course you reviews are objective …

    • Interesting. But you skip over the fact that all of the issues I had with the unit wouldn’t have mattered from a 3-second recording rate (though, that’s odd, since I always have it set for ‘Best’). But rather, these issues were massive cuts of the forest/course. That’s easily shown in the post. Recording rate didn’t impact this*.

      Also, you skipped over the fact that everyone else has found pretty similar results with these units.

      *Side note: It’s funny that you’re focusing on this (which, I agree is odd btw since I know I’ve set ‘Best’ on it), since it recently came to light that FellRNR actually used Smart Recording for all his Garmin runs.

  134. Dean Usher

    Hi, Following this and a few of your other great reviews I purchased a Fenix Sapphire with HR a few months back. It’s been great and couldn’t be happier with the device for everything I need (running, cycling, hiking etc…). However, over the last few days the HR monitor has stopped working, just wondering if you had any experience with this? When I go into HR mode the small heart is flashing so I assume it is trying to get a reading, but no information is being displayed. I’ve tried syncing wirelessly, via USB restoring defaults and so on but with no luck. Any help would be appreciated.


  135. Chris

    Is there a way to set an activity, say running to not log the steps in the activity tracker so not to get credit for the additional steps when doing a normal training session when the session has been recorded.?

  136. Areom

    Hi! Are there any short cuts for turning the HR on/off or do you have to go through the regular menys (Hold UP ->
    Select Settings > Sensors > Wrist Heart Rate > Off.) On the 235 you can hold up on the HR widget and you can turn on/off the HR there. Are there something like that on the F3HR? That’s actually 3 button presses vs. 11.

  137. Dan Chan

    May I know what program/software/app did you use to track and compare heart rate from the different watches? I am interested in using fenix 3 for exercise testing.

  138. Jacob

    My F3HR has been working great for 6 months now, but just recently (after Garmin pushed the 3.6 update), I’ve been having bluetooth troubles. It seems that the watch loses the phone and then instead of reconnecting simply sits there attempting with no success. When this happens I lose about 10% battery an hour until I notice. Nearly lost a full charge overnight due to it. Any word from you’re Garmin friends on if this is a new bug from the update. It’s never been a problem before. Just hoping I don’t have to constantly babysit the bluetooth.

  139. okrunner

    Probably asked or answered somewhere, but, do the Chronos removable bands fit the Fenix 3hr and will they be available for purchase?

  140. ronald l kirshner

    i am interested in the heart rate variability feature (R to R variability) . i currently use Firstbeat device with bodyguard 2 .
    will the optical sensor provide this data (R to R ) variability or do i have to use the chest strap for this with the Garmin fenix HR
    tremendous review thank you

  141. Heckie

    I seem to be constantly getting lag with the HRM on every run for the first 4/5 mins or 1km, reads very low, then suddenly kicks in and works fine? Anybody got any suggestions about how to sort this out?

    • Shaw

      Heckie, yes, I had the same issues for a while – during which I pressed start for the activity (without actually starting it – ie press Start, choose Activity) then wait 20 minutes for the heart rate symbol to stop flashing.

      Then I did these 3 things and it should be fixed.
      1. Remove any paired heart rate straps you have paired with
      2. Make sure you have the latest firmware (v3.60)
      3. Restart the watch.

      For a

  142. Tobias

    Fenix 3 hr or wait for the fenix 4 when ever that comes out??

    • Dmitry V.

      How can anyone know what is your training plan, why do you need these watch and other circumstances? Maybe you need something now. Maybe not and you can easily wait till next spring-summer-autumn or whenever new Fenix will be released and will become available? 🙂 (I bought F3HR silver just 1.5 month ago when it became available and quite happy with it)

  143. Ron Boh

    Is the Fenix 3 HR able to be strapped on the regular Fenix 3’s bicycle handle bar mount? Bicycle mount like this:

    link to amazon.com

    • Dmitry V.

      Yes. Just make sure you don’t get any dirt/sand underneath of optical sensor to avoid scratching it. (or just put a piece of clear tape on it for protection)

  144. Taylor Harris

    I don’t understand how Garmin was able to relaunch the Fenix 3 without redesigning the charging cable. This has to be the #1 feat of engineering of 2016.

  145. Amanda

    Do you know when the Fenix 3 HR will be released in rose gold?

  146. Wawan Setiawan

    Getting one this week. Can’t wait.

  147. David

    Great review. I love my Fenix 3, except for one annoying issue.

    I have been going back and forth with Garmin Support in two tickets now over an issue that I have been having. My Fenix 3 always over reports activity distances. The more elevation change in a course seems to introduce more overreporting, thus my presumption is that the 3D Distance/Pace (Grade Adjusted Distance/Pace) is being used for calculations despite those settings being off in my watch. This weekend I recorded a run with both my Fenix 3 and my Edge 520 at the same time.

    Run as recorded by Fenix 3:
    link to connect.garmin.com

    Run as recorded by Edge 520:
    link to connect.garmin.com

    Fenix 3 – reported distance 10.36 mi. – actual distance (GPS track) 9.7 mi.
    Edge 520 – reported distance 9.59 mi. – actual distance (GPS track) 9.6 mi.

    I am computing the actual distance above using link to mygpsfiles.com

    I am interested to see if anyone else using a Fenix 3 sees this same sort of over reporting of distance.

    • Chris Wilson

      David – I totally agree with your assessment and similar to you I have had my Fenix back to Garmin twice over this issue. I did a similar test with my old 620 (which incidentally matches official races distances quite well). Clearly the over reporting of distance by the Fenix3 is an inherent problem which Garmin doesn’t seem to acknowledge. This also goes with the erratic pace read out.

    • David

      My erratic pace read out was “fixed” by changing the Data Recording from Smart to Every Second (Settings -> System -> Data Recording). Now the pace display is less erratic when running at constant speed and instead smoothly displays the incorrect pace (pace being derived from distance and distance being incorrect).

      Tier 1 support in all organizations exists to answer easy requests and protect higher levels of the organization from wasting resources on basic requests. My problem with Garmin is that thus far their Tier 1 support has refused to escalate my issue and thus (at this rate) it will never be addressed. If this is systemic within Garmin, and I am beginning to suspect it is, then many software bugs detected by customers and reported to support will never get fixed because the developers who could fix them will never be made aware of them.

  148. Miles McKee

    Hi There,

    What would be the main benefit of 24/7 HR?

    Thanks, love your reviews.


    • Phil

      Hi Miles.
      24/7 HR gives better calorie expenditure calculations.
      In theory it could be used to give more advanced sleep monitoring amongst other things.
      Remember 24/7 HR only samples periodically depending on how much movement it detects to save battery life.

  149. Alex

    Hi, does anybody know if the screen protector from Fenix 1 will fit Fenix 3?

  150. Teguh

    to protect the optic heart rate, can we put clear tape to the optic hr sensor and still use it ?

  151. Ian

    Hi, thank you for your great review.

    I was hoping you can help. I have a sub 37 hour trail run coming up and would like your advice on what is the best way to track this without the watch dying. Would plugging it in a power bank work when the battery is close to dying? Can perhaps plug it in and carry in my hydration pack?

    Thanking you in advance.

  152. Alex

    I’m wondering how you think this watch would do for sports like basketball or tennis. I don’t run or cycle much but I play basketball and tennis very often and am looking to track my workouts, namely for calories but it’s also interesting to see things like speed. I currently own an ambit3 run which isn’t displaying calories (for unknown reasons) and might be looking to upgrade to the Fenix3 if it can deliver reliable calories/speed figures. There really isn’t any data out there on how these watches hold up for sports like tennis/basketball, so any info you have would be much appreciated.

  153. Mike


    I am having an issue and I am wondering if it’s just me. I did a 1 hr 40 minute bike/walk yesterday. Biked for 1 hour, walked for 40. Calorie burn was 900 calories, using optical HR. I then walked 33000 additional steps yesterday, but only got another 100 calories estimated expenditure.

    This has been happening ever since I ‘upgraded’ from a Fenix 3 to Fenix 3 HR.

    How in the world can I have only burned 100 calories in 33,000 steps? Per all of the calculators I’ve ever seen, that’s about 1,500 calories.

    Also, as part of my 1:40 workout, the bike ride was almost 850 calories. The 30 min walk only numbed the calories another 50.

    Is there a bug I am not aware of? Ive emailed Garmin, but the 3 day back and forth is killing me.

    • Double-check your gender/age/weight settings, that typically drives what your seeing with wonky calorie metrics.

    • Mike

      Yup, did that. Even did a couple of hard resets and have the same exact issue.

      I check my settings on the app and on MyFitnessPal integration set them to different values and then reset them back to the existing values same problem.

      I’ve opened a case with Garmin, however the back and forth taking 3 days at a time is a pain point. I’ve reached out to their outdoor help desk for further help.

  154. John

    I love my Fenix 3 HR, but one thing I have never been able to get working is the weather widget. Are there any tips or tricks you can share to get it to show the weather info on the watch?

  155. Aaron

    Hi Ray.

    Thanks for the great review. It helped me a lot to understand ins and outs of the watch.

    I have a question I would want to ask you:

    I am trying to decide between Fenix 3 and Fenix 3 HR, and, since I’m learning how to swim, being able to stop mid-lane without affecting the swim data is one of features I am looking for.

    The table at the end of the review says the Fenix 3 HR supports ‘Indoor Swim Auto-Pause Feature.’ Does it mean it would stop the timer and etc automatically if I stop mid-lane and resume when I resume swimming, without having to press any button?

  156. KD Harkness

    Thank you for a Great review and insight! Is there anyway to obtain additional data from a stationary bike? Is there any benefit of the foot pod over the chest strap when using a treadmill?

  157. Anthony James

    so I am in the market for a Smartwatch and I have read through your reviews of most of them. Can you tell me which watch you would highly recommend for using while running, hiking, “BIKING” and for biking do they read all the metrics? Watts, Cadence, etc? I would like to use for my cross races as when I swap bikes I lose time on my races and my data. And then swimming and more.

    Thanks for all you do and your interview on TrainerRoad was great.

  158. Dimitris

    Hi Ray,

    Did you have any problems with “cadence lock” in the Fenix 3 HR or are you aware of many people having it? It seems (from what I read) that many people had this issue in the FR235 but I have not found many instances of people who have this problem in F3HR.

    It started affecting me recently (not every time) and it is really annoying. After a while the HR sensor locks and shows the cadence instead of the heart rate, no matter what (see attached pic). Saving the run and restarting another straight away does not solve the problem, unless if you wait for some time.

    Could it be specific to my F3HR unit, to ask for a replacement?

    Cheers and carry on your great work in the blog!

  159. Mike M

    Do you think there will be any Black Friday deals on the F3hr?

  160. Karl

    Hi there,
    I am looking for a garmin fenix 3 hr in gray. But I can’t find it on the internet. I can only finde the silver version or gray in the saphir version. Can please tell me somebody where I can get it?

    • Dmitry V.

      Well, it does not exist.
      Original F3HR has grey bezel and sapphire crystal. And later they released a version with”silver” bezel and mineral glass. These are the only two F3HR models on the market at this moment.

      By the way, why not “silver” version? I bought it since I was afraid of small scratches that will be so noticeable on grey bezel. And now, after several months of constant wearing my F3HR, I think that was a good decision, as I can clearly see lots of small scratches (which are much less visible on plain metal)

  161. Annemarie

    Thanks for another brilliant review, I have a question for you in your closing paragraph you say

    Overall, it’s pretty hard to beat the Fenix3 series, HR or otherwise, in today’s high-end GPS watch market. On the flip side, one can buy more reliable 3rd party optical HR sensors for less than the added cost between the Fenix3 HR and the base Fenix3. It then really comes down to a choice between accuracy and convenience (and 24×7 HR monitoring value).

    I have an overactive thyroid and I’m looking for something that will monitor my HR all the time, during the day, while I exercise (run/cycle) and when I’m sleeping. I currently have a Garmin FR220 with HR strap which obviously only monitors HR when the strap is on/during exercise. When you say though that there is more reliable 3rd party optical HR sensors which ones are you referring too and do they have 24×7 monitoring or is the Fenix 3hr the only real option in that regard. I wouldn’t mind wearing a separate device (like fitbit or something) if it meant getting better readings.

    Any advice on the best product or combination of products (like garmin FR 225 + another device)?

  162. Thomas


    Are there windows phone (lumia 950 xl) users who have a good experience with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR ?

    I can’t really get a clear view on it searching the web. Also because IOS and Android phones had issues with this watch.


    Kind Regards

    • Dmitry V.

      “Also because IOS and Android phones had issues with this watch.”

      Not sure what you mean by issues with Android. Possibly you found some very old posts? I had absolutely no issues with Garmin Connect on my Android phones since July. (using F3HR and VAHR)

    • Thomas

      “Also because IOS and Android phones had issues with this watch.”

      I meant that I read posts of iOS and Android users that had sync and bluetooth issues. If it was only on a windows phone it would be clearer to me where the problem lies and then this watch would be no option. If it is/was on all of them then I can assume that an update of Garmin might fix those problems ? So if there are windows phone users that use this watch it would be great to hear there experience with it.

      It is an expensive watch so I don’t want take any risks.


    • Dmitry V.

      Just for clarity. I can confirm that in last few months neither I or my wife had any issues with Garmin Connect and Fenix 3HR / Viviactive HR with Android (Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge). Sync, notifications works fine. There were some minor issues with Bluetooth, but was solved about 2 firmwares ago.

      “It is an expensive watch so I don’t want take any risks. ”
      I would say that in this equation Windows Phone itself is a factor of risk.

    • Thomas


      btw. Never had any issues with my windows phone except for the lack of apps and the support by manufacturers.

      Kind Regards

    • Thomas

      I bought one(Garmin Fenix 3 HR) !! and it is working fine with my windows phone lumia 950 xl. No issues at all 🙂

    • Ian Datson

      I also have a Lumia 950XL and a Fenix 3 HR and have no problems at all. I did originally with the phones Insider Preview software but once I reverted to Windows 10 Mobile shipping version everything worked as advertised.

    • Phil

      If this rumour turns out to be correct it hardly warrants a new line of Fenix watches.
      They should just call them Fenix 3 HR S, X or whatever.
      After digging a bit deeper it turns out that the Fenix 5 is basically a Chronos which means it’ll have a lower profile & rotated OHR bump and will be compatible with the Biker Monkey (CIQ 2) Developers pack. Oh and err a crappier battery.
      If this is correct don’t buy one. Go for a on sale 3HR with a link from this site.
      Looks like we’ll have to wait for a review from Ray to find out about accuracy tests.

  163. Kpcski

    Can anyone help with this please?
    I sent this to Garmin support.
    I really cannot get any decent data from HRM even when in an activity?!?! … Can you?

    link to dcrainmaker.com

  164. MCzigler


    If I am using utilizing BT headphones with my Iphone will I still receive notifications on the Fenix 3.

    • Dmitry V.

      Yes, as you can have several bluetooth devices (watches, headphones, input devices etc) connected to the same host (phone/laptop etc).

  165. TomO

    I have seen several comments concerning a silver version of the F3HR. Is this available in the US? I haven’t seen it anywhere.

  166. Alex

    I have heart problems.
    I want to play sports under the supervision of Garmin HR.
    Which model is better to buy,with a sensor on the hand?
    Best quality measurement and monitoring statistics:Fenix 3,Forerunner 235, Vivosmart HR, or Vivoactive HR
    Garmin HRM-Run,this device do not want to use.
    Measuring the heart rate on a hand:
    How to work in the cold?
    Wet hand?
    Hairy arm?
    While shaking?
    I do not use smartphones and other gadgets.
    It is important to have statistics on measurements in Garmin per day.
    In the future if you can change the strap,battery?
    Thank you in advance!
    Sorry for my english.

  167. Mike

    Hi Ray, Thank you so much for your great reviews. I just ordered the 399 Fenix 3 from clever training based on your review and your black friday notes. Thank you for that. I am switching from the 620 to this and I was wondering if you knew whether or not the Fenix 3 Hr will be able to recognize two different foot pods. I like to cycle through 2 different pairs of shoes all the time for my running and the 620 would make me switch between the 2 different foot pods and reinstall them when i switched running shoes. I would like for the watch to be able to distinguish between 2 different foot pods.

  168. Michael L.

    Is there anyway to see a finish estimate while running a workout?

    When running a longer race like a marathon, I would like to run a workout that has a warm up and a middle section where I would be trying to run splits and then for the last 1/4th or so use the finish estimator to gauge my progress. Is there a way to do that?


  169. Neil Marriott

    Thank you for the great review, which convinced me to buy the fenix 3 hr sapphire performer a few months ago, and I absolutely love it. Since then I wrote-off my bike by Saint-Cloud! Fenix 3 survived though! New bike has arrived and body fixed, so back in the saddle!
    What map computer (Garmin edge or other) would you recommend pairing with the fenix 3? Edge 820 looks great, but a bit too expensive I think. I feel that the fenix 3 will do a great amount of the features of these GPS units, so waste of money doubling up?
    Anyway, your thoughts would be greatly received.

  170. Chris

    What would be the best way log both optical wrist HR and chest strap to compare the data? Would I need to log the Chest strap to my phone and pull the optical from my watch?

    Curious how Ray made his charts…

    • Dmitry V.

      Yes, 2 different devices. You log optical HR to the Fenix and chest strap readings to another watch or phone. (strap will be more accurate and will be able to provide data that optical HR can not do by design due to how it measures the pulse)

  171. Jason C

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks again for the kick ass review. Now that it is getting a lot colder here in NJ I’ve been doing a lot more indoor rides. When I choose the “Bike Indoor” app on my Fenix 3 HR the GPS is set to off, perfect. Yet, after my ride is gives me something like 2k feet of elevation change while I’m sitting in my basement on my trainer! What gives? Do you know why this is happening and how I can prevent it? Just happened two rides in a row.

    Thanks so much,


    • David Miller

      I had the same problem with my Fenix 3 HR and I “fixed” it by turning off the altimeter setting Auto Cal.

      What I believe happened when I had the same behavior is that the watch started the indoor activity at an altitude and then at some point during the activity the altimeter Auto Calibration kicked in/gave up/whatever and stepped the altitude to a new value. If you see a sudden step up/down of altitude during your activity in Garmin Connect, then my guess is that is what is happening.

      link to www8.garmin.com

    • Jason C

      Thanks David, I will give that a try.

  172. Fernando

    Are you aware of any firmware update that will allow to Sync Fénix 3 HR with Ant + at the gym i.e. Stationary bikes?

  173. Fernando

    When swimming events are posted on Connect, they are registered on the folllowing day. Any idea why?

  174. James

    Thanks for the amazing review and the great holiday deal guides. Your site led me to the great fenix 3 HR deal at clevertraining and was excited to replace my early gen GPS watch. Unfortunately my experience so far with the fenix has been frustrating – bluetooth connection only works intermittently and for brief periods. Garmin’s support help has gotten me to successful BT pairing after lengthy troubleshooting, but then it drops again minutes later. And living in the heart of downtown Manhattan, the GPS fix takes at least 1 minute, up to 5, making me feel foolish for standing on the street staring at my watch. Do you think this is within expected function for the watch or is my unit defective? I’m about to return the watch but seems like non-Garmin GPS watches may not work any better. Would appreciate your thoughts based on experience with the watch. Thanks!

    • Jason C

      Hi James,
      With all the high risers in NYC it will delay picking up a signal. With that being said, 5 minutes sounds like a crazy amount of time. While in the city it takes me a maximum of 1 minute to lock on to satellites. Do you also have GLONASS enabled? I use to have trouble with my Garmin 620 connecting to Bluetooth but since switching to the Fenix3 and then the Fenix3 HR, I haven’t had any Bluetooth issues. You may have a defect. Try a factory reset, although I’m sure Garmin suggested that.

    • Neil

      A bit of an obvious one, but first make sure GLONASS is enabled – this should get you going within a few seconds to no more than a minute.
      If you have already done that then it’s likely you have a faulty one.
      I’ve had no problems with BT, so can’t help you there.

    • BT issues are hard to troubleshoot, though I’d say that in about 90-95% of the cases I’ve seen – it ends up being more phone related than device related (this is true across most smartwatches I see).

      That said, I suspect your BT problem is actually cascading into your GPS acquisition issue. Without the BT connection functioning, you’re not getting your EPO data*, so it’s going to take a heck of a lot longer, especially in a tough GPS situation like NYC.

      Try pairing your watch via USB and/or WiFi to ensure you get that data.

      *EPO: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • James

      Thanks for the insight. I think you’re right – USB pairing has helped the GPS fix. I’m still having issue with the BT connection but you’re probably right. My phone could use updating. appreciate the help!

  175. Mike

    Hi Ray & Guys here,

    Ray thanks – you made me to decide to buy this watch and not samsung smart one.

    i bought my Fenix 3 HR just couple days ago. and have 2 questions (maybe very simple for most of you, so thanks in advance for answer/help)
    1.use of accelometer without gps (in interior) : today i skated on ice but Fenix didnt measured any distance . i created new app called “ice skating”. could someone please advice how can i do it correct – to measure this distance inside of stadium ?

    2.smart notifications: from wtsap, gmail notifs. regular work then again not (no idea what s the reason). incoming calls and sms used to be notified, now not anymore (while above mentioned apps still work).
    The switches on the Smart notification menu (in the Garmin Connect Android app) are always reverted to the OFF state even when i make it ON – it goes to OFF by itselfs. i use samsung S5 android phone.
    thanks for any tips and help 😉 !

    • Dmitry V.

      “(in interior) : today i skated on ice but Fenix didnt measured any distance”
      I don’t think it will be possible to do this, as there is no GPS signal, no steps – nothing that watch may use for distance tracking. (as it don’t measure distance only from accelerometer.

    • Mike

      but on the official slovak garmin web:
      is written (in 5th & 6th line of text): for training in interieur,new GF620 and 220 have inbuild accelometer which measure distance, speed etc., without other external sensors !

      link to sport.garmin.sk

      and because fenix3hr has also inbuild accelometer – i though, it should also be possible to measure it inside – but i still have no idea how. or am i still wrong ? thanks

    • It measures speed/distance while running, but not on ice. When on ice you can glide – and thus an accelerometer has no method of knowing how far you’ve glided. Whereas running on concrete you won’t glide.

    • Jack

      Ray, I had the same problem… last week I was in China sledding down an indoor mountain and my fenix did not tell me how far I went. What’s up with that? 🙂

    • Dmitry V.

      When you are running, accelerometer will register the pattern of bounces from the ground to determine steps, plus watch will know the length of your step. So it can figure out the distance, approximately.

      To determine this in your example would be quite an overkill for the watch. I mean, there are well established methods of inertial navigation, but this is mainly used in rockets and missiles. (and requires a gyroscope in addition to accelerometer)

  176. I have huge wrists. About 21 cm circumference. Does anyone know how big the strap will adjust to?

    • Dmitry V.

      Measured flat with ruler. Distance between buckle and 5th hole is approx 23.5cm. (5th hole will give you ability to wear the strap properly, fixing the end with the loop)

    • Thanks Dmitry. I have trouble getting watches big enough. Impressively fast on the reply too. Thanks again.


    • Dmitry V.

      Since this is a sport watch and one of potential uses is skiing with the watch on top of the sleeve, Garmin often provides “extension” kits and longer straps.

    • Thanks mate. I order mine today so I will see how it goes. I’ve never been sking. Might get there one day.

  177. Dean Keteri

    Thank you! Your reviews are amazing and I love to read about new gadgets. You convinced me to go with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR.

  178. Dariusz

    Hi, does Garmin plan to add Galileo feature to Fenix 3?

  179. Mark Young

    well with the Fenix 3HR $1.00 cheaper than the 735XT I decided I will miss the golf app come spring and decided to jump in and buy it. Amazing piece of technology – it is a beast….couple questions:

    1. Do ya’ll shower with it or take it off? Was thinking this could be a way to keep it clean
    2. Is it me or is the band it comes with meant for giant people who arm wrestle and have 15″ wrists? I am not a tiny person (short yes) 5’9″ 158 but I am on the 5th to last strap setting when running. Do they sell shorter bands? I see all types of colors and metal offerings but shorter bands?

    • Mark Young

      well with the Fenix 3HR $1.00 cheaper than the 735XT I decided I will miss the golf app come spring and decided to jump in and buy it. Amazing piece of technology – it is a beast….couple questions:

      1. Do ya’ll shower with it or take it off? Was thinking this could be a way to keep it clean
      2. Is it me or is the band it comes with meant for giant people who arm wrestle and have 15″ wrists? I am not a tiny person (short yes) 5’9″ 158 but I am on the 5th to last strap setting when running. Do they sell shorter bands? I see all types of colors and metal offerings but shorter bands?

      Sorry for the pic – I was intending to make her my avatar, wasn’t really paying attention.

    • James L


      I am about exactly your size, and I started on the 5th and 4th strap settings – seems like the band has stretched, and I now use the 3rd all the time. If you find another band, I would be interested in knowing. I do wash the watch when I shower!! I’ve had my watch since March, and I continue to be extremely happy with my selection. I did purchase a tri heart rate monitor for my yoga and weight lifting workouts as the optical hrm technology does not seem to work well in these cases. Best wishes!!

  180. Aleks

    Amazing review Ray!!

    In my 2 months experience, the Fenix 3HR seem to be utterly useless in the water, like open water swim. GPS signal drops as soon as the watch is dunked an inch in the water. The barometric sensor goes nuts in the water, which is to be expected but it does not self correct when out of the water and the exercise session is terminated. Of course, the HR is pretty much useless under water. On land, it all works great and the watch is otherwise great.

    • All GPS devices will drop/lose signal once submerged. What Garmin (and Polar/Suunto) do though in openwater mode is take the less-ideal satellite plots and figure out where you were going.

      So if the watch is left underwater, of course it’s not going to be useful. But in most openwater swimming your arm exits the water briefly, thus potentially regaining satellite. It takes a pile of these plots, runs and algorithm against it, and attempts to nail your track. In general I find it’s about 95% accurate.

      There are minor things you can do to improve (or degrade) accuracy while openwater swimming – but in general it works fairly well for most.

  181. Joe

    Hey man, first off I want to say a big thank you for your VERY thorough reviews!

    I was hoping that you could possibly give me some insight.

    Being a gym nut and avid mountain biker for years I decided it may finally be time to pick up a wearable. When the series 2 Apple Watch came out I figure it was finally ‘there’ being that it was GPS enabled. I purchased one and quickly realized how useful and NOT useful it is. Some of it is fun to look at. I was hoping there was a GOOD fitness app that I could track/log workouts/sets/reps, but there is not. I was also hoping to utilize Strava and MapMyRide, but Apple doesn’t let 3rd party apps access GPS and the screen defaults to locked which is useless on a bike.

    So, with Black Friday deals that brought me to the Fenix 3HR Bundle. It seems AWESOME, but I guess I miss how seemless the Apple IPhone/Watch combo is, even if the watch is just a glorified second screen for the phone. For some reason I’m having trouble making the Fenix 3HR sync with mapmyride. I also picked up Garmin Speed/Cadence sensors whivh are not being picked up by the phone apps. The styling of the Fenix 3HR is very nice as well.

    This has me looking at the VivoActive, but I figured I’d check in with you before I buy yet another wearable and keep/return others.

    So, for a gym nut and avid mountain biker what do you recommend as a daily wearable?

    • James L


      Before I got my fenix 3HR, I was a Mapmyride guy, too, and I seem to recall having issues getting mainly my wahoo cadence sensor readings into the app. However, I have found that all the information that I need is adequately put into Garmin Connect when I use the built in ride app. I, too, wish that there was a better gym app, and found that I needed to buy a HRM-Tri because I did not trust the readings from the OHRM. I use the Strength app on the fenix 3HR to track time and HR. When I am finished I can count reps using heart rate variation as well as pretty much exercises since I typically follow the same sequence. Not perfect, but it has been adequate for me – I can compare workouts and get a relatively good measure of calories. Hope that this helps.

    • Joe

      I tried the Fenix 3HR again today at the gym to no avail, I really just can’t get on with this wearable.

      How does the Vivoactive HR compare? What are the actual differences???

    • Joe – When you say having trouble syncing with MapMyRide, do you mean on the backend through Garmin Connect, or?

  182. Dirk

    Excellent review Ray!

    I have my Fenix 3HR since November and it is a great sports watch!

    Your review made my decision a lot easier!


  183. Arif wibowo

    I am now using Garmin Fenix 3HR. But I found the time zone can not automatically corrected by GPS. It has to have to synchronized with mobile phone.

    Can this Garmin Fenix 3HR be time zone corrected using GPS only??

    • wawan

      Yes, I never used my phone when I was in other TZ, but my 3HR corrected its clock and TZ by just reading its location

    • James L

      Seems like I always have to sync my watch to my phone in order to up date to a new time zone….how can you set get the watch to use gps location to update the time? Last week, I was blissfully sitting in an airport eating lunch in a new time zone and almost missed a flight because my watch was an hour behind.

  184. Glenn adamson

    Anyone having problems with the altimeter? mine is constantly failing, I think it is to do with the barometer but not sure.
    I use it mostly for mountain biking and it’s really mucking up on the Strava side of things.
    Any ideas….

    • Patrick Utrecht

      Usually the cause is dirt that clogs up the opening for pressure measuring. Make sure you clean the watch properly. In the end during an activity dirt can still cause minor issues but I’ve seen little deviation myself.

  185. Benjamin

    hi all,

    Merry Christmas! I was lucky enough to receive a Fenix3HR today! Superb upgrade from my M400. I was wondering if there is a way to configure data screens off of the watch (like Polar let you do in flow), where the changes then get sync’d over to the watch?


    • Patrick Utrecht

      You configure the watch data screens on the watch self, per activity individual. No syncing is required, you can directly see the changes.
      go > settings > apps > activity you want to change the data for, the rest should be self-explanatory.

    • Benjamin

      Cheers Patrick,

      That much I had understood. My question was more “is there an easier way to do it” off the watch, rather than select each data field on the watch individually. I suppose there isn’t.

      Thanks anyway!

      Benjamin (Amsterdam) 😉

  186. Andy Spratley

    Does it support swim workouts created via Garmin Connect? (I ask because all of the literature and demo videos that I’ve seen are vague on the point whereas 920xt literature and demo videos are clear on the point.)

    • Patrick Utrecht

      Should work similar as with the 920, create workout on garmin connect website then send to watch with a sync. Once it’s on your watch start it under the training section and not with a normal activity.

  187. Roger Hughes

    Hi DCR,
    I have a dilemma. I’ve got the Suunto Core (I’m a skydiver and mountaineer) also a VivoactiveHR for training. Love the wrist HR. Hate the chest HR when running and cycling.
    I was thinking of selling them both and getting the all in one Fenix3 HR. I notice it has jumpmaster mode which I’m hoping would give me a similar altimeter to the core.
    Is this a fair assumption? You think the Fenix would do the job of both watches? Cheers!

    • Joseph

      If you’re interested, I’m selling my like new Fenix 3HR bundle. I literally only wore it a handful of days and it’s just not what I was looking for exactly, it’s almost too advanced for me.

      Shoot me an email, jcway16@gmail.com

  188. Matt

    I currently use my Garmin 1000 to capture wattbike sessions at the gym, and then it auto loads to connect and then on to Strava.

    I assume the F3HR will be able to do that so I don’t need to take the 1000 to the gym with me?

    How easy is it to turn on broadcast mode for HR? I currently have the vivosmart and the recent software update has made it super easy to turn it on (I use the optical on my commute) so would be a shame to make it massively more cumbersome to do.

  189. Fernando

    The biggest dissappointment I have with the F3HR is the lack of connectivity with gym equipment. You won’t we able to use the ANT+ with the spinning bike. Don’t waste your time reaching Garmin, they’ll never respond!
    Sorry for breaking the news

  190. doctapow

    I got a Fenix HR for Christmas, and have now tried it cross-country skiing 4-5 times and I have found the optical HR to be way too far off to be useful. I know from experience that under hard exertion when running, biking or nordic skiing that I typically run between 150 and 160 bpm (measured with a chest strap).

    The Fenix HR wrist sensor had a hard time registering anything about 100 and would typically show 75-85 during my training loop. Today I wore my Suunto Ambit 2 with chest strap for comparison and confirmed the above. Average heart rate over a 2-hr ski was 100 with the wrist sensor and 134 with the Suunto and chest strap.

    It seems like the only time the wrist sensor approached the same reading was when I stopped and held my hands still and then the wrist sensor would gradually try to catch up – while my heart dropped at the same time.

    I like the rest of the features of the watch, but I’m not sure I’ll keep it if the HR is basically a novelty.

    Aside: Can anyone explain how to export and overlay the HR data from for example the Fenix 3HR and my Suunto so I could graphically show the disparity? I thought I saw some of those plots in Ray’s reviews from time to time.

  191. Kpcski

    I agree! The optical HR sensor (Garmin’s Elevate) is TERRIBLE for me too. It is just astounding to me that that the sample rate and accuracy is not increased AT LEAST WHEN I AM RECORDING and activity or WHEN I AM BROADCASTING MY OPTICALLY MEASURED HR to another device. I have told my watch that I am serious about my heartrate during those two situations and still it is terrible. My guess is that Garmin is so focused on battery life that it does not allow the battery draining Elevate to sample. Even when it samples, it does not read high BPM well. I have asked Garmin to allow users to choose the sample rate in configuration, to no avail. I have taken to wearing a Heart Rate Strap when doing activities, but that defeats the purpose of what finally seemed like a watch that did everything from the wrist for us.

    Not coicidentally, as I also believe that this has to do with sample rate / accuracy of heartrate via Elevate, I find the sleep tracking terrible on my Fenix3HR. My FitBit’s sleep tracking was spot on! Garmin’s is more like spot off.

    Are there any workarounds to these two HUGE issues? Is there a better firmware out there in beta somewhere?

    Pls help DCR or DCR Community.


  192. Ayw

    Hey Ray,

    Has there been any rumblings of adding Varia support to the Fenix 3 or the Fenix 3 HR? Its disappointing that the Fenix 3 nor the Fenix3 HR do not support it being their premium wearable devices?!

    Having a vibrate notification would be a great added safety feature with Varia. You can’t always hear the audio alert, and I’m not staring at my head unit 100% of the time. Adding this would fill a critical safety void with the varia.

  193. Paul Armstrong

    What software do you use to compare multiple heart rate tracks. I have a Vivoactive HR which seems pretty accurate at rest but miles off when in any kind of effort even if this is just tempo riding on a bike, not even an all out sprint

    Have 3 devices I’d like to test
    VivocativeHR with wrist based HR
    Vivoactive with Mio Velo wrist based HR
    Edge 810 with Garmin Chest Strap

  194. Jim

    Hi All, I got a Fenix 3 NON-HR for Christmas, which is what I was hoping for. I don’t care for the bump the HR sensor makes and I don’t usually wear my watch tightly enough for the HR to work anyhow. I use a RYTHM+ optical HR.

    Well, I was disappointed to learn that the running dynamics don’t work with an optical HR, so I need the Garmin chest strap. I’m not clear on which one to get, can someone point me to it?


  195. Rayna Luzier

    Thanks for your review. Have you tried the watch over a single layer of clothing…think winter run? I’d love to know if the HR would be accurate at all?

    I have the Fenix3 without the HR and use a separate arm strap. I’m HR training with a coach, and in the winter I find that trying to pull a sleeve over the HR wrist strap (carefully) often causes the strap to get pulled down resulting in a flurry of cursing and difficult, painful re-positioning. Even if its just a touch loose, my HR is all over the place screwing up my data. I’m just plain tired of the hassle, but I need a fairly accurate HR monitor. I’ve tried the chest strap which causes its own, even worse, set of problems for me.

    If I could get accurate HR reading even over just one layer (so my wrist doesn’t freeze off), I’d be willing to make the jump.

    • Dmitry V.

      Optical HR sensor precision may be affected even by a skin tone. And it needs a good optical contact with your blood vessels. So it just won’t be able to work via a layer of fabrics.

      “I’ve tried the chest strap which causes its own, even worse, set of problems for me. ”
      Quite surprised, as new models (e.g. Garmin HRM Run or Tri) are soft and comfortable. And in terms of accuracy and data provided, HR straps are almost unreachable by Optical sensors.

  196. SteveT


    Got fenix 3HR pre-christmas sale. Reporting my altimeter definitely wacky. Recalibrate by known altitude won’t hold. Deviations up to 65,000 ft.

    Any insight/updates to Garmin’s pending fix???

    Thanks in advance


    • Other than ‘soon’, I haven’t heard any specific date unfortunately.

    • I got it changed from the store I bought it. I called several time garmin support and eventually they said being the size of the error I should have it changed. Try the same.

    • after I got my watch changed, I still got the same errrors after few days and update to 4.20 software

    • SteveT

      Thanks Ray,

      I have had some success by cleaning/blowing out the small opening (per garmin forum) and daily recalibrations. Seems to have stopped the diverging iterations +65K to -33K or sometimes 0 000 ft. Last two days more in ballpark so may be combination of software and care and maintenance. v4.20, auto cal off, GPS on.


    • Haris Taxcman

      Hi Steve,
      I bought the Fenix 3 HR last week and after just 3 days it developed the same problem with faulty altimeter readings. I reported it to Garmin support (via e-mail) and today I got an e-mail with their response. They suggest that I return the watch to the store to get a new one. So, its a hardware failure probably, they do not have any solution unfortunately… So, it’s going back tomorrow…

    • Dr Andrew M Shardlow

      Ha ha. That is above Armstrong’s line – the point at which body fluids boil at normal body temperature! (-:

  197. Bernd

    Hi, I wear the Fenix 3 HR 24/7 and have to regret that (after some time) I feel a squeeze on my wrist (probably from the optical heart rate sensor). The feeling increases as time passes until it hurts my skin a lot.

    I currently change the wearing position from left to right wrist on a regular basis. I even turn the watch to be the downside of my wrist on a regular basis and, however, I feel a pain on the skin. I had zero problems with my Forerunner 235 which has the same optical heart rate sensor but it’s way lighter.

    Do you experience the same problem? What have you done to work against that problem?

    • Dmitry V.

      I’m also wearing F3HR 24/7. After my Citizen Skyhawk it is almost weightless, so was an easy move for me (with some issues around strap material and having to get used to it after metal band).

      As per squeeze – have you tried to loosen it just for one hole? During the day I will readjust the strap several times as I’m quite big (117kg) and wrist diameter will change during the day (activity/hydration level).

      Optical HR bump – don’t feel it at all.

  198. Fernando

    I’ve notice that sometimes my swimming data is posted on Garmin Conect with next day’s date, also the times are wrong
    Any ideas?

    • David

      Lap swimming data doesn’t have GPS data (and therefore no time zone data). So you must have your local time zone set correctly in Garmin Connect for the time/date to be correct.

  199. Fernando

    Connect is on my iPhone. Don’t know how to set the time so swimming time is posted correctly. Also indoor bike doesn’t use gps, but times are posted fine.