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Garmin Fenix 5/5S/5X In-Depth Review


It’s been nearly three months since Garmin first announced the Fenix 5 series, a lineup of three core watch sizes/models (5/5S/5X), that spans 14 variants in total.  And that’s before we even talk straps.  This line builds upon the Fenix 3HR introduced a year ago, which in turn built upon the Fenix 3 from a year prior to that.  Yet it incorporates elements seen in the super-pricey Fenix Chronos that came out last summer (don’t worry, that product line gets all these updates too).

Since introduced, I’ve been testing a pile of watches.  I’ve amassed 63 workouts on them in that time frame across three continents and from tropical waters to the icy mountains of the Alps.  Not to mention the stack of workouts that The Girl (my stunning wife) has done on the Fenix 5S variant.  Neither the dog nor the baby have participated in this round of testing. Slackers.

While much of the earlier testing is on beta software/hardware, recent testing over the last month has been on final hardware and largely final software. Plus, units started shipping last week to consumers around the world.  As such, it’s most definitely in-depth review time.  Like always, once done with the loaner units I’ll stick them in boxes and send them onwards back to the folks at Garmin and go out and get my own via normal retail channels.

With that – let’s get on with it.

Executive Summary – What’s new:


If you’re already an old hand at knowing what’s new about the Fenix 5 series, then you can honestly skip this section.  But, if you’re just arriving here for the first time…then let’s get you all caught up before I dive into actually using it.

So what’s so different about the Fenix 5?  Well, the two biggest pieces would be it now has maps on the Fenix 5X edition (legit maps!), and that there are three sizes now.  Previously there was just one size with a crapton of different bands.  Now there are three sizes with an equally large crapton of bands.

For now, let’s talk about all the differences – both nuanced and big.  But first I need to explain that there are three editions of the Fenix 5:

Fenix 5S: 42mm wide, smaller wrist focused – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5: 47mm wide, baseline – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5X: 51mm wide, includes mapping – only in Sapphire glass

Each of these three editions is then split into basically two categories: Sapphire and non-sapphire.  Except the 5X, which only has Sapphire.  What’s most notable though is that the non-Sapphire editions do NOT have WiFi (kinda like Garmin Fenix Chronos).  Whereas the Sapphire editions all have WiFi.

With that in mind, I’ll note each of the new features below, and whether they are specific to a given version.  If no specific version is noted, then it’s applicable to all versions.  In the below, I’m largely using the Fenix 3/Fenix 3HR as my baseline for changes.

Display: 5/5X Went from 218×218 pixels to 240×240 pixels (except 5S, which stays at 218×218).
Display: Went from 16 colors on Fenix 3 to 64 colors on Fenix 5
Display: Now supports Emoji, right to left languages (Arabic and Hebrew)
Connect IQ: Fully supports CIQ 2.2.3+, as well as 64KB for Widgets, 32KB for Data Fields, and 128KB for apps
Battery: Increased battery life up to 24 hours (Fenix 5) in GPS at 1s, or 14hrs for the 5S, and 20hrs for 5X
Battery: Increased UltraTrac battery life to 75 hours (Fenix 5, less for 5X)
Gyroscope: Added Gyroscope to all models, used to increase track points in UltraTrac mode
User Interface: Slight tweaks to UI to match Fenix Chronos series
User Interface: Added new quick access controls menu, to access apps/widgets
Strava: Added Strava Live Segment support for Bike & Run
Sensors: Added Varia Vision Heads Up Display Support (all ANT+ remote displays technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Lights (all ANT+ lights technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Radar (all ANT+ radar technically)
Sensors: Added Shimano Di2 Shifting, ANT+ Gear Shifting Support (SRAM RED eTAP & Campagnolo EPS)
Sensors: Added ANT+ Muscle Oxygen Sensors (MOXY/BSX)
Sensors: Added Bluetooth Smart sensor support (HR, Power, Speed, Cadence, Footpod)
Optical HR Sensor: Revamped tech, now records 24×7 data every 1-2 seconds
Optical HR Sensor: Flattened out even more, virtually flush with back of unit
Training Data: Added FTP Estimation for cycling
Training Data: Added new Training Load functionality
Training Data: Added split of aerobic and anaerobic training effect
Training Data: Now supports Swimming PR’s (along with previously added Swim Structured Workout support)
Live Group Tracking: Added to all Fenix 5 models, à la the Edge 820 group tracking
Golf: Added TruSwing, Greenview, and Autoshot features
Other Sports Added: Mountain Biking, Treadmill and Indoor Track separated, Ski and Snowboard separated, Navigate app, and Track Me app
Navigation Functions: Added Proximity and Navigation Alerts (for distance to waypoint, and time/distance remaining to destination)
5X Only – Mapping: Includes Topo maps in package, can add your own maps if you want
5X Only – Mapping: Ability to display mapping for current position
5X Only – Mapping: Ability to create automated running/riding routes (round trip mapping
5X Only – Mapping: Can find POI’s around you (i.e. food, including Chipotle)
5X Only – Mapping: Routing engine can ingest GPX & FIT files for turn by turn navigation

Got all that?

Ok, but what’s been removed or no longer present compared to the Fenix3 series? Well, according to Garmin it’s purely one thing: WiFi on the base models (Sapphire glass models have it).


Oh, one last thing.  Wondering why there’s not a Fenix4?  That’s because the phonetic pronunciation of that in Chinese roughly translates to ‘fast rise to quick death’.  Not exactly the starting point Garmin wanted to begin with.

If you’re looking for the complete ‘what’s new’ wrap-up in one go, then here’s a detailed video that covers it all:

Ok, let’s get crackin’ on this box.

Editions and Unboxing:


There are 14 versions of the Fenix 5, which fall into the three basic groupings: Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, Fenix 5X.  I talk about the basics of those in the previous section.  Of course, within that, each model has different things included in the box.  For example on some of the higher end Sapphire glass variants, you also get a secondary strap.

Trying to keep track of all the Fenix 5 versions?  Join the club.  Feel lucky you don’t have to type it all out and ensure it’s correct.  Here’s the best way to think about it.

First, choose your watch size:

Fenix 5S – 42mm: This is the smaller one, unofficially targeting women
Fenix 5 – 47mm: This is your standard issue one, officially targeting everyone
Fenix 5X – 51mm: This is the mapping one, it’s bigger to fit in more battery/storage/processing

Here’s how these three look side by side, assuming you were just using the simple silicon band (no fancy bling) – Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, and then Fenix 5X:


Next though, you need to choose whether or not you want Sapphire glass.  That drives whether or not you get WiFi.  In theory, it also might prevent your unit from getting scratches on the lens.  In reality, that’s usually not the case.

Fenix 5S: Non-Sapphire is $599, Sapphire is $699
Fenix 5: Non-Sapphire is $599, Sapphire is $699
Fenix 5X: This ONLY has Sapphire, starting at $699

Decided what size and version you want?  Ok, good.  Now you get to decide what bands you want.  Here’s how that rolls out:

Fenix 5S – $599: White bezel with white silicone band (band officially called ‘Carrara’)
Fenix 5S – $599: Silver bezel with turquoise silicone band
Fenix 5S – $599: Silver bezel with black silicone band
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $699: Black bezel with black band (+ includes a yellow silicone band)
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $699: ‘Champagne’ bezel with gray suede band (+ includes a white silicone band)
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $849: ‘Champagne’ bezel with golden color metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)
Fenix 5 – $599: Slate gray bezel with black silicone band
Fenix 5 – $599: Slate gray bezel with yellow silicone band
Fenix 5 – $599: Silver gray bezel with granite blue silicone band
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $699: Black bezel with black silicone band (+ includes a yellow silicone band)
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $849: Slate gray bezel with metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)
Fenix 5X Sapphire – $699: Slate gray bezel with black band
Fenix 5X Sapphire – $849: Slate gray bezel with metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)

Oh no no, we’re not done yet.  Finally, you need to decide if you want a bundle or not.  The bundle is only offered in the following editions, so if you want an HR strap bundle (that comes with the HRM-TRI strap), for capturing swim workout data), then you have to pick one of the two specific bundles offered (neither 5S or 5X).  Burger King this is not.

Fenix 5 – $699: Slate gray bezel with black silicone, with HRM-TRI strap
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $769: Black bezel with black band + yellow silicone band, with HRM-TRI strap

Got all that?  Good.  That makes one of us.

Now, you may be wondering about all these bands.  Officially they’re called QuickFit bands, as they are designed to pop on and off super-quick.  And indeed, they do with a single button press.  There’s virtually no risk of these popping off in an open water swim or the like, because the lever is below the band against your wrist.


The idea being you can buy extra bands of differing colors as you see fit.  And oh – these QuickFit bands are also compatible with the Garmin Fenix3 series as well.  Because I’ve gotten tired of typing out spec sheets, I’m going to go into abbreviated mode now.  The bands are as follows:

QuickFit 20 (20mm for Fenix 5S): White/Turquoise/Black/Yellow/Purple/Red Silicone – $49, Grey suede leather – $79, Champagne stainless steel – $149
QuickFit 22 (22mm for Fenix 5): Black/Granite/Yellow/Red/Blue Silicone – $49, Brown leather – $79, Stainless steel – $149
QuickFit 26 (26mm for Fenix 5X): Black/Yellow/Red/Green Silicon – $49, Brown leather – $79, Stainless steel – $149

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: Your mileage may vary on the unboxing front.  I’m going to go through the unboxing of a single unit here in photos/text, and then I’ll cover all the three core units in the video below.

First up – we’ve got the box itself.  This box happens to be the Fenix 5S Sapphire edition.  But again, you can check out the full video of all three units in a moment.

Fenix5-InBox Fenix5-InBoxBack

Inside that box you’ll find the watch looking up at you, with all the parts goodness below the surface.


Fenix5-UnboxingSide Fenix5-UnboxingEverything

So what’ve we got?  Well first up is the watch itself.  Here’s the front and back.



Then we’ve got the secondary suede strap in there.

Fenix5-UnboxingStraps2 Fenix5-UnboxingStraps

Of course, with the QuickFit system, you can pop it on and off super quick.  The Girl has been doing that with this 5S for a while now.  For workouts she uses the white silicone strap, and for the rest of the day, the suede strap.

Fenix5-Unboxing5S-BandsOverview Fenix5-Unboxing5S-BandsCloseup

Next, we’ve got the charging cable.  It’s new to the Fenix 5 series, but Garmin says it’ll now become the standard for all future wearables.  One cable to rule them all.

Fenix5-Unboxing5S-chargingCable Fenix5-Unboxing5S-chargingCableWithWatch

Lastly, there is the quick start guides you saw above.  However, I want to take a brief diversion to talk about that cable. Due to that, I present you this video below I put together – which shows both the upside and downside to the new charging cable.

Finally, as promised, here’s the mother lode of unboxing videos – with all three editions unboxed, plus size and weight comparisons.  It’s like knocking out two sections of this review in one sitting:

Ok, let’s move onto the comparison section.

Weights & Sizes:

You asked for it; it’s time to talk size between the units.  Here are the exact specs of the three sizes (plus the Fenix3 HR at the bottom for comparison):

Fenix 5S: 1.7” x 1.7” x 0.6” (42.0 x 42.0 x 14.5 mm) – 67g
Fenix 5: 1.9” x 1.9” x 0.6” (47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm) – 87g
Fenix 5X: 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.7” (51.0 x 51.0 x 17.5 mm) – 98g
Fenix 3 HR: 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm) – 86g

But that can be hard to conceptualize, so instead, let’s make it easier in simple text.  Note, in the below I’m specifically talking about the width of the watch (round part), not so much the depth.

Fenix 5S: Roughly same size as Forerunner 735XT/230/235 (techically slightly smaller than those)
Fenix 5: Slightly larger than the 5S, but smaller than Fenix3HR
Fenix 5X: Virtually identical to Fenix 3 HR in size (except not as deep)

Note that technically the screen on the 5S has less pixels (218×218) vs the 5/5X (240×240), but it retains the same color (64 colors).  There’s no changes in terms of contrast or display brightness between any of the watches, or compared to the Fenix 3 series.  If you liked the Fenix 3 brightness, you’ll be fine with the Fenix 5.  And if you didn’t like the Fenix 3 brightness, you probably won’t like the Fenix 5 brightness.

First up, let’s look at just the three core watches side by side: Slide4

Next, for fun, let’s add in the Fenix 3 HR as a bit of a benchmark on size.  You can see that the Fenix 5X and Fenix 3HR are identical in terms of face size.  This is why you can switch the new bands on the Fenix 5X to the Fenix 3/3HR lineup.  Whereas the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S won’t be compatible with the older Fenix 3/3HR bands.


Now let’s get all horizontal and see how they stack up.  Here it’s super clear just how big the optical HR sensor bump is on the back of the unit.


What? You’re into optical sensor bumps.  If that’s your thing – then here’s two more pictures comparing the Fenix 5 to the Fenix 3HR optical HR sensor bump:

Slide7 Slide8

Now let’s throw them all down on the pavement and see how they shake up.  I tossed in the Fenix Chronos, FR920XT, and FR735XT in there.  Note that the FR735XT shares the same exterior shell dimensions as the FR230 and FR235.  So if you’re familiar with those watches, that should help you understand a bit.


And here’s the depth on them.  You’ll notice just how much that bump from the Fenix 3HR has been reduced with the new optical sensor design on the Fenix 5 series (or even compared to Chronos).  Keep in mind on Chronos it’s thinner in part because of the fact it has less battery.  The sensor bump is still bigger on Chronos than the Fenix 5


Next, just two lonely watches to more clearly show just how close the Fenix 5S and FR735XT are in size.


But I hear ya – sensor bumps aren’t your thing.  Instead, it’s wrist fetishes.  No worries, I’ve got you covered.  Here’s my wrist with all the units on it.

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Oh no…we’re not done yet!  Here’s some additional photos on a small women’s wrist (The Girl) of the three models:

DSC_8346 DSC_8347 DSC_8352

She notes that she likes the size of the 5S the most, though wishes the poles were a little bit smaller.

And then here’s the same three models on my brother’s wrist, which is a bit larger than my wrist (which is the wrist seen for all other photos in this post):

DSC_8355 DSC_8357 DSC_8362

Phew – more than you ever wanted to know probably!

The Basics:


I’m going to mix things up a little bit in this review from past reviews.  Partly because I get bored writing things in the same structure each time, and partly because I think at this point there’s some things that are considered ‘base’ knowledge.  Meaning that I’ve often split up into separate sections swim/bike/run, with there being so much overlap between all three sections.  For this I’m going to round-up the watch basics into this section, then sports into the next, and then talk about unique Fenix 5 pieces like the new Training Load components.  Then I’ll separately dive into accuracy.

To start with, you’ve got the watch face.  While it may look similar to the Fenix of the past, there’s actually a fair bit of customization allowed under the cover.  Virtually every element, including the data fields (even the Fenix logo) can be customized to your liking.  And that’s before you even talk going to Connect IQ to download a watch face by a 3rd party, or using a photo with the Garmin watch face app.


For example, you can customize to show metrics like steps, calories, sunrise/sunset times, altitude, text message notifications, miles run, and more.

New to the Fenix 5 is also the ability to quickly access widgets and functions.  That’s done by simply holding the upper left button, which opens up a ‘wheel’ of controls  These include functions like locking the screen, enabling do-not-disturb mode, or controlling music.  You can slightly customize these, by adding other functions like quick-access to the VIRB camera controls, setting time quickly via GPS, or the timer and stopwatch functions.  Personally, I’ve found this most handy for just locking the screen (i.e. while skiing to prevent accidental presses from gloves).

Garmin-Fenix5-Control-Wheel Garmin-Fenix5-Control-Wheel-LockScreen

Next, it’d be remiss to not mention the activity tracking that occurs.  This has been standard on Garmin wearables for some time.  It tracks your daily steps and movement, including stairs (using the barometric altimeter.  You can either add these stats to the front watch face, or you can simply press the down button to get to the activity tracking page, which shows your steps towards your goal for the day.  That goal is constantly shifting – attempting to motivate you to walk more.


Garmin-Fenix5-DailyStepTotals Garmin-Fenix5-ActivityTotals

All of this activity tracking data is, of course, available through the Garmin Connect Mobile app, on iOS/Android/Windows Phone (as well on online via web browser).  The app syncs continuously throughout the day in the background.

2017-03-22 22.08.32 2017-03-22 22.09.25 2017-03-22 22.09.44

A notable change to the Fenix 5 series is the updated optical HR sensor in relation to 24×7 monitoring.  While the Fenix 3 HR had an optical sensor, and it also monitored your HR 24×7, it didn’t quite update as frequently as it could have.  Sometimes it’d be every few seconds, and yet other times it’d be hours in between updates (during workouts, it was always every second).  With the Fenix 5 however, the optical sensor has been reengineered to sample every 1-2 seconds.


That sampling is then uploaded along with your daily activity data to Garmin Connect.  While Garmin notes that some people may not see a major improvement in the visual graphs shown on GCM for your daily heart rate, I certainly have.  They noted that behind the scenes all that data is captured, but that a lesser set is shown online (logical, since you don’t really want to try and display 3,600 data points per hour, times 24 hours, on your mobile app).  In any case, here’s what that looks like.

2017-03-22 22.12.29

All of this data can be used to track your all-day heart rate.  I’ve talked about this in the past, but the benefit of tracking resting heart rate is to identify trends, such as getting sick.  In fact, it was easy to see over the last few weeks when my resting HR went from being in the low 40’s, up to upper 50’s – that I was getting sick (and sure enough, I was).

2017-03-22 22.12.05 2017-03-22 22.11.05 2017-03-22 22.11.14

As you may have noticed above, you’ll also get automatic exercise recognition for certain sports like running, walking and cycling.  Note that this doesn’t turn on the GPS, but rather is just using accelerometer data.  You can tap these to get further details about the activity.  For example, above you can see those little grey circles.  One is when I walked to dinner, and another when I walked home from dinner.  Below you can see the level of detail I get about each one (one going to dinner, one going from dinner), which is simply just the distance and start times (5:50PM vs 8:50PM).

2017-03-22 22.12.44 2017-03-22 22.12.55

I’d strongly recommend though that any time you do an actual legit workout, just use the normal sport modes.  That’s going to give you the data recording you want.  Otherwise, the automatic exercise recognition is basically just for capturing random walks around town, a quick commuter ride around town, etc…

Next, we’ve got smartphone notifications.  For the most part, these are pretty similar to the past.  The Fenix 5 supports the standard notification centers on your smartphone, so any app can trigger notifications. From Twitter to texts, and Snapchat to Strava.  These will simply appear on your wrist and you can view them as-is, or press to get further details.  Alternatively, you can clear them.  Anything cleared will also clear on your smartphone.  Further, you can open up the widget to view any missed notifications.

Garmin-Fenix5-Smartphonenotifications Garmin-Fenix5-SmartphoneNotifications-List

Note that what is new in the Fenix 5 is the support for Emoji icons, enabling you to finally see your smiley icon in its full black and white text glory.

One last basics item to cover is WiFi.  The Fenix 5 has WiFi included *only* on the Sapphire edition units, so basically, the more expensive ones.  WiFi is utilized to allow for quicker uploading of workouts, as well as sync of data like updates.  Realistically it’s not all that much faster than Bluetooth Smart.  But it is kinda convenient to just walk in the house and have things upload the second you close the door from a run.

To configure WiFi networks, you can use Garmin Express, which allows you to list numerous networks.  Note that you can’t connect to proxy/filtered networks (like a Starbucks or most airport networks).  But home networks, MiFi access points, and such are all good.


With that – we’ve covered all the non-sporting basics, aside from a run through the settings control panel.  But if you’d like to see what’s in store there, then simply hit up the below video – where I walk through the entire watch user interface, screen by screen!

It’s time to move onto getting active with it, and seeing how it works in sport use.

Sport Usage:


Now to dive into what we’re all here for: Using the darn thing for sport.  After all, while the Fenix 5 is a great day to day smartwatch, the reason you buy it is likely for outdoor sports goodness.  Or at least, some sports goodness.

I’m going to iterate through some basics on a few core sports, but keep in mind that for the most part everything from a core functionality standpoint in one sport applies to another sport.  Meaning aspects like data field customization, alerts, etc… are all basically the same.  Where things differ of course is connectivity to sensors (e.g. power only in cycling, at least without Connect IQ add-ins), and then also how certain metrics are displayed.  For example, you’d get pace in running versus speed.  But many metrics can be tweaked – such as whether you want to see altitude in meters or feet.  I actually like to mix and match that myself, where I’ll keep pace/speed in MPH, but altitude in meters while riding in Europe.

So, let’s talk running first.  To start up any sport we’ll hit the upper right button.  That brings us to the sport selection screen.  It’s here we can choose any of the default sports, customize some (like triathlon mode), and add others.  Also, we can access standalone apps – such as 3rd party apps or even 1st party Garmin apps like the HRV Stress app or Navigate app.

In any case, we’ll choose running – and in this case, an outdoor run.  For an indoor run, you’d select ‘Treadmill’.


Once that’s selected it’ll go off and find satellites.  You can see the status of this by the ring around the edge of the watch.  Wait until it’s green.  Red is bad, and orange is less bad.  Green is good.  In general, I like to wait a few seconds extra (10-15 seconds) before starting, after it’s green.  This ensures it’s truly got good legit satellite coverage.  A few folks have also noticed that on the very first GPS activity you do outdoors (ever), you may want to give it an extra minute or so before starting.  That seems to help significantly.


At the same time, it’s going to be acquiring your heart rate optically.  You can see this by the little HR icon at the top.  When it’s blinking, it’s thinking.  When it’s done thinking, it stops blinking and stays lit.  Don’t run till you’ve got it lit full-on.

If you’re using a heart rate strap (external), or a footpod, it’ll go off and connect those accessories.  Of course, ensure you’ve got them paired first.

Next, let’s talk data fields and data screens.  This basically applies to all sports.  Essentially, you can customize the crap out of data fields and screens.  No device on the market gives as much customization as this.  You’ve got customizable data pages (screens), that can have up to 4 fields each.  That can be one field, two fields, three fields, or four fields.  And then within both three and four fields you can arrange them two different ways each (technically three ways for three fields – one without field titles).

You can create numerous custom data pages, I haven’t figured out the limit because you can create so many.  But you can also select from standard data pages that can be lightly customized as well.  These include: Virtual Partner, Map, Compass, Elevation (Graph), Music Controls, Running Dynamics (x2 pages), plus a heart rate zone page.  Lots of pages.


I tend to keep mine somewhat basic.  Essentially I’ve got a page focused on workout totals (i.e. total distance, total time, etc…), and then another focused on laps (i.e. lap distance, lap pace, lap time, heart rate).  Btw, you can select either automatic laps based on a preset distance or manual laps based on pressing the button.


Within laps, you can also customize a lap banner, which will display the lap details after pressing the lap button.  So you can mix and match what data you want there.  I’d point out that this is the one area that Suunto has an advantage over Garmin, with their Spartan series.  They’ve got a super cool lap summary page.  Ironically, this lap summary page is modeled in turn after what Garmin did on their Edge series devices.  But alas, it’s never come to the wearables lineup.

Note Suunto also can now do 7 data fields per page, though I honestly haven’t had much of a reason to need more than four on a wearable.  So one could argue that’s a benefit for Suunto, though again, I think the real strength is their lap page.

In any event – let’s actually just run.  Once running (after you’ve pressed start), it’ll record all your data including your location.  In order to show how instant pacing works and responds, I’ve put together this quick video:

While running you can, of course, change data pages at any time by pressing the up/down buttons.  Heck, you can even customize the data fields mid-workout if you so choose (something you can’t do on Suunto/Polar devices).  It’s all pretty darn flexible.

Once done with the run you’ll get summary and PR information – such as longest run, or fastest 5K run, etc… You’ll also get recovery time metrics (more on that in the next section), and workout benefit details.

GOPR5541 GOPR5543

And then finally, you’ll find your workout will sync via Bluetooth Smart or WiFi (if your unit has it), or you can just plug it in.  It’s here you can then explore the activity online using your mobile app or browser.  Also, if you’ve connected to Strava, TrainingPeaks, or one of the other Garmin Auto Sync services, it’ll end up there within a few seconds too.

One final note is that the Fenix 5 still doesn’t support running power meters natively (Suunto does).  However, you can use the Stryd Connect IQ data field to get that data.  That field will then show up just like a normal power meter field within your data pages, and allow you to record the data online to not just Garmin Connect, but also apps like TrainingPeaks – which will show it as well (seen towards the bottom, with the little ‘IQ’ pieces next to each graph).


Next, let’s talk cycling.  Virtually everything I’ve talked about above applies here in terms of data field customization and such.  About the only major difference is when we start talking about power meters, which the cycling mode supports.


I talk about sensors in a full section down below, but it’s worthwhile noting here that the unit does now also support Bluetooth Smart power meters and Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence sensors (in addition of course to ANT+ sensors it’s always supported).

While riding, you’ll be able to display data from the power meter, as well as any other sensors you have.  Plus distance and speed data from GPS, and altitude data from the barometric altimeter.  One downside to the Fenix 5 though for triathletes is the lack of a quick release kit.  As such, you’ve either got to wear it on your wrist, or pick up one of those cheap $11 rubber mounting blocks for your bike.  But those blocks don’t tend to fit triathlon bike bars very well.  Hopefully, we’ll see Garmin offer a quick release kit.  Given the triathlon season is just getting underway…now would be a really good time for that.

In any event, after your workout is done, you’ll find the activity on Garmin Connect for your analysis.


Note that the Fenix 5 supports Strava Live Segments, via the app built into it.  This allows you to see your status of a segment you’ve starred, which will automatically trigger when you cross the segment.  This is true of both cycling and running.  I talk a bit more on how this works in this slightly older post, when the functionality first came out.

Next, let’s move onto swimming.  That’s where things get a bit more unique sport-wise.  The Fenix 5 supports both openwater and pool swims.  For openwater swims, it’ll use GPS.  Whereas for pool swims, it’ll use the accelerometer.

I’ve actually got a crapton of experience with openwater swims and the Fenix 5, thanks in large part to being in warmer climates for January-March.


To demonstrate how it all works, I’ve put together this video that walks through step by step both the unit in action, as well as accuracy after the fact:

The key thing to understand with openwater swimming modes on any GPS watch is that it’s a constant struggle for units to figure out where you are.  Each time your hand goes under the water, it loses GPS signal.  And each time it gets above the water (for all of 1-1.5 seconds), it partially regains it.  Usually, it doesn’t regain enough signal to know exactly where you are – so instead it starts trying to plot based on a spread of points.  That’s why openwater swims are rarely perfect in track length.  As a general goal, I find anything within +/- 10% to be acceptable for openwater swim distance.  Obviously, I’d prefer it be spot on, but plenty of openwater swimming over the years says that’s roughly the line in the sand.

There are things you can do to improve your success rate though:

A) Always get signal above water before starting
B) Always press the start button above water, and then wait for 2-5 seconds before your first strokes
C) If making a sharp turn somewhere (such as a buoy), I find it helpful if you slightly slow down your stroke rate at the turn buoy – giving the unit just an extra split second of your wrist above water to try and find GPS
D) Always wait until out of the water to stop the GPS track, ideally waiting 5-8 seconds for it to ensure it has a clean lock on GPS

If you do those four things, I find substantial improvements in GPS tracking during swims (across all device vendors).  None really impact your workout.

Next, let’s talk pool swims.

2017-02-28 18.17.52

As noted earlier, for this it leverages the accelerometer in the unit.  That’s then combined with a known pool length, which it’ll prompt you to select it from some common lengths.  You can also customize the length as well if you’re pool is wonky.  Once it’s set, it’ll remember it for future swims – but you can easily change it if you pool-hop.


Overall I found no issues with the swimming on the Fenix 5 throughout a few different pool swims in both an empty pool and a busy pool (18 people in my lane).

2017-02-28 18.19.49

As always though with (all) pool swimming and accelerometers, there’s a few tricks you can use as well to get better accuracy:

A) Obviously, ensure your pool length is right
B) The key to swimming watches is remembering it’s looking for a ‘cue’ as to when you’ve reached the end of the length.  So, push off forcefully each time
C) It doesn’t matter if you do flip turns or open (non-flip) turns, I mix and match depending on the craziness at the end of my line
D) Again, just push off sharply, no matter what you do
E) Avoid stopping/starting mid-lane, since it’ll confuse things
F) If you have to pass someone mid-lane, it’s best to ramp into that pass as evenly as possible. Versus just instantly sprinting mid-lane, since it may think you’ve just done a new length.  I realize that’s easier said than done – but just giving some general advice
G) Don’t do the YMCA song at the end of the lane, even if at the YMCA.  Also, if you go the bathroom, pause the watch.

Speaking of pausing, note that the Fenix 5 does include an inverted display color when you pause it – so you can know whether your mid-set or not.  Also, you can use drill mode for things that don’t involve your wrists (i.e. kickboard drills).  That allows you to simply enter in the total distance for that drill set at the end of the set.

Once you’re done, you’ll get summary data on the watch, but you’ll also get it of course on Garmin Connect as well.  Both per length data as well as per-set data.


Ok – with all three core triathlon sports taken care of, let’s briefly talk about triathlon mode.  This is the key element to a multisport watch, and enables you to seamlessly transition from sport to sport, all within a single recording.  It’s what differentiates a Garmin/Polar/Suunto multisport watch from a TomTom watch that may support all three sports individually, but not as a single workout/race.


With the Fenix 5 you’ve got a triathlon mode that by default includes openwater swim, outdoor cycling and an outdoor run.  It’ll also capture transition times too.  You just press the lap button to change to a new sport.


One tip I’d recommend is during a triathlon, is to lock the watch.  Garmin actually offers an automatic locking option after each sport (you can enable/disable it per sport), so that it’ll automatically lock as soon as you change sports.  To change sports again, you’ll hold to unlock, then press again to change.


Next, if you want to customize the multisport mode you can do so too.  For example, to do an indoor triathlon, or to do a duathlon.  Or to do a brick workout.  Also, you can just make-up a multisport mode on the fly by simply holding down the middle left button and changing the sport to something else.  Basically it offers never-ending multisport mode.

Speaking of making things up – you’ve got the ability to select numerous other sports, as well as customize those sports.  Here’s the grand total of sports that I see on the watch today:

Running: Run, Trail Run, Treadmill Run, Indoor Track
Hiking: Hike, Climb, Walk, Navigate
Cycling: Bike, Bike Indoor, Mountain bike
Swimming: Openwater Swim, Pool Swim
Triathlon: Triathlon Mode, Swimrun, +general multisport mode
Skiing: Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski
Other water: Stand Up Paddleboard, Row, Row Indoor
Other: Golf, Golf TruSwing, Strength, Cardio, Jumpmaster, Tactical, Other (make your own up)


Next, let’s talk structured workouts and intervals.  Structured workouts are ones that you download from Garmin Connect.  You can create them online there yourself, or download ones as part of a plan from them (such as running or triathlon plans).


These can’t be created on the mobile app, but can be sync’d via that app.  So you’ll need to edit/create the ones above using a desktop/laptop computer (don’t even bother trying on the app).  Once that’s done, it’ll show up on your watch for you to execute:


Typically structured workouts are more complex than basic interval workouts (which I’ll cover in a second).  So with a structured workout you may have numerous targets and/or rather complex phases or steps within them.  The watch will guide you through each of those steps/targets, and you’re basically along for the ride (or run).


Whereas with interval mode, you’re running through a relatively basic interval workout (basic in structure – it may still be quite painful in terms of execution).  With these you’ll go into the interval mode on the unit itself, and then you can customize the interval’s work duration (time or distance or open), the rest period (time/distance/open), as well as the number of reps and the warm-up/cool-down periods.


Once that’s all customized, it’ll iterate through these steps and again, you’re along for the ride.  The key difference between this and the structured workout above really gets to the complexity of what you can do.  With the interval timer on the unit itself you can’t set targets (i.e. a target pace), whereas with a structured workout you can.

Garmin-Fenix5-Interval-Mode Garmin-Fenix5-Interval-Options

Ok – we’ve covered all of the core sport pieces.  Note that the next section will dive into the training and stress pieces, whereas the section after that I’ll talk about navigation and courses.  Courses can also be used for pacing as well (i.e. racing against a previous effort), so those do have some overlap there into the sport realm.

Training Load & Stress:


Perhaps the biggest change in the Fenix 5 is the inclusion of new Training Load and Stress metrics, as well as now listing the aerobic and anaerobic training effect (versus just a single training effect before).

At first glance, you’d probably say these were just more puff numbers.  But behind the scenes there’s actually a fair bit going on, and it’s including a pretty massive codebase from partner FirstBeat into the watch.  All of these metrics are identical to what FirstBeat has been using for years in their pro athlete offering, which is a big software suite that pro teams use to try and gauge training and recovery.  Garmin has in turn licensed portions of that, which are now seen in the Fenix 5.

One really important thing to point out is that these metrics take time to adapt to you.  Realistically FirstBeat says it takes about two weeks in total to get to the point of having truly valid data.  That also assumes that you’re able to get two workouts that trigger a VO2Max estimate (either running or cycling, but two of the same sport type).  It’s those two key items that allow it to really hone in.  It’ll reach it’s ‘full potential’ once it has about a month’s worth of data on you.

So what type of data is it giving?  Well, there’s a bunch of metrics.  Nothing here requires a heart rate strap.  First, we’ve got the basics – like VO2Max for both cycling and running.  These have been around for a while.

Garmin-Fenix5-RunningVO2Max Garmin-Fenix5-CyclingVO2Max

Then we’ve got recovery hours.  This is a continual timeline of your recovery hours.  This grows with each workout, and shrinks over time, like flipping over an hourglass timer.  Along the bottom it’ll give guidance on how to train:


Then we’ve got the new Training Load piece.  This tells you how much load you’ve had in the last 7 days, and whether that’s optimal, overtraining, or undertraining.  Remember though – this is based on understanding you as an individual (which gets to those first few weeks).  So it’s looking at your past training load and figuring out what you’re capable of.  Said differently: It’ll be different for everyone based on their historical loads.


The specific number given in the middle ranges differently for each person.  The below graph kinda helps to put it in perspective.  But again – the optimal range will vary by individual.


A couple of things to keep in mind about the Training Load function:

– The number is a 7-day rolling value
– It’ll take one week before you see the first number
– It takes four weeks to be ‘fully calibrated’, inclusive of VO2Max estimates
– It requires either the optical HR sensor be enabled or a heart rate strap be paired to accumulate load

Then we’ve got the previous Race Predictor function.  This is pretty straightforward and just does a lookup table based on your current running VO2Max, your gender, and your age.  Nothing more, nothing less.  This also assumes you’ve done the training such that your legs can maintain that distance.  In general, for most people, it tends to be in the right ballpark of their *potential*.  Again, you’d have to have the training in the legs to hit that.


Lastly, we’ve got the Training Status screen.  This is new, and it’s pretty cool.  Up top it’ll tell you your current training Status, followed by whether your fitness level is falling, and if the load is increasing.  Here’s mine as of today:


So what’s it telling me?  Well, it says that I’m doing unproductive training.  That makes sense.  I’ve been traveling the last few days, along with skiing.  That’s moderately unproductive.  Officially, here’s what the description from FirstBeat means:

“Your training load is at a good level, but your fitness is decreasing. Your body may be struggling to recover, so be sure to pay attention to your overall health including stress, nutrition and rest.”

Which is ironically exactly true.  I was sick last week, and combined with the travel and weird hours – it’s not ideal.  Kinda neat when something works.

In the photo above you’ll see the fitness and load directional arrows.  One is showing my fitness is decreasing as a result, while my load is actually slightly up.  That’s because I’ve been doing ad hoc (but unstructured) shorter runs the last few days (3-4 days in a row), coming off of skiing for a week.  So it’s less than ideal from a training standpoint.

Here’s another example from a few weeks ago, which is showing the opposite, as I was peaking at that point coming off of a strong week.


Next, at the end of every workout, you’ll be given a split of anaerobic an aerobic training impact, in terms of a number between 0.0 and 5.0.  While Training Effect used to be a single number, now it’s split.


So what’s the above telling me? Well, there are tons of different phrases it can give back to you:


In order to make that easier, they’ve put them into a spreadsheet, which I’ve uploaded to below.  Actually, two spreadsheets:

Training Effect terms/phrases (Excel)
Training Status terms/phrases (Excel)

Finally, note that all of this is displayed on Garmin Connect at the end of each activity, you can see it here:


What isn’t (yet) displayed though is graphs showing this all over time.  That would allow you to plot this and determine where you stand with training load in general, and potentially going into an event.

Two last notes – the Fenix 5 includes both the ability to establish Lactate Threshold levels as well as cycling VO2Max.  The lactate threshold feature was introduced in the past with the Garmin FR630 and Fenix 3.  As was cycling VO2Max on other units.  With the lactate threshold feature you do need a heart rate strap (as you do if you want to use the ‘Stress Test’ score app).  Also, with the cycling VO2Max test/values, you’ll need a power meter connected.  Just wanted to make that clear.

Also, the Fenix 5 can record HRV data from an HR strap to the activity files, if you have specific apps that want to take advantage of that.  To enable that you’ll dive into the settings menu and turn that to enabled.


Overall I’ve been pretty impressed with new FirstBeat driven features– more so than I’ve been in the past with similar training status/recovery type metrics.  At the end of almost every workout I’d say that the ‘Training Status’ page (i.e. productive, unproductive, etc…), and fitness/load arrows are inline with how I feel.  Of course, they’ve got years of experience with his algorithm in their dedicated software platform.  Obviously though, I’m interested in seeing how it works for others as well – once folks are able to get 3-4 weeks of time on their units with good data to starting getting details on.


Historically one of the biggest differentiators between the Fenix series and the Garmin Forerunner series has been the navigation capabilities.  Turning back the way-back machine to the original Fenix (aka Fenix 1), that was all about navigation.  Then over the course of the Fenix 2 and Fenix 3 it became more focused on sports, albeit not to the detriment of hiking/navigation.

What I want to do here is show you how it works to create a course/route, load it onto a unit, and then navigate on it.  That’s the basics.  But then I’ll show you the unique differences within the 5X, since that has maps on it.  Whereas with the 5/5S, they don’t have maps and instead use a breadcrumb style trail with general directional guidance (i.e. compass style).

To begin, you’ll need to create a course.  The easiest way is to do this with Garmin Connect, where you can drag and drop your route over a map.


Once you’ve got the route done (I’ve got some tips a bit later in this section), you’ll send it to your Fenix 5. You can do this from the desktop or mobile app.  From there it’ll show up in your list of courses on the unit:


Ok, with that all set we’ll crack open the course to navigate on it.  It’ll offer the ability to show a map (which is just an outline) as well as the elevation profile.  Below is how it looks on the Fenix 5 (non-X), we’ll get to the 5X in just a second.


Within the ‘map’ view (on all Fenix models), you can use the upper right button to iterate between three different zoom/pan functions.  See those three tiny circles in the upper right corner?  If I press that upper right button it then changes the lower-left button functions.  Once for zoom options, once for pan left/right, and once for pan up/down.

Fenix5-Course-PanLeftRight Fenix5-Course-PanUpDown Fenix5-Course-Zoom


While navigating the course it’ll show your current position and then it’ll show your planned route.  It’ll also notify you anytime you need to change direction.  Further, the little red arrow uses the magnetic compass to point you in the right direction.

DSC_8754 DSC_8756

If you want you can also select a past activity to follow.  In doing so, it’ll actually set it up as a bit of a race, allowing you to pace/race against it while running/riding that course:


And you’ll get your current position within the elevation profile as well.


If you wander off-course, it’ll let you know about that as well (see the little turn indicator counting down along the bottom of the screen below).


And this is to some degree where we get into the key differences between the Fenix 5/5S and the Fenix 5X.  When you’re routing on the 5/5S it has no context of what you’re on.  It just knows you need to go in a given compass direction.  Whereas on the 5X, it actually has routable maps – so it knows you’re on a road/trail.

You can see that below too – it’s not telling me of any impending turns, despite the route being on a twisting road – because it knows I can’t go anywhere but that road.


This is important because when I was on a winding mountain road, the Fenix 5 would constantly notify me at every switchback in the road, even though there was nothing else to do but follow the road.  Whereas on the 5X, it knew that I was on a simple switchback, and didn’t notify me to keep following the only road there was (logical).

Speaking of routing, let’s talk a few more 5X specifics.  On *only* the Fenix 5X is the ability to do round-trip routing.

DSC_8779 DSC_8780

This allows you to request a route (i.e. cycling/running) of a given length and if you want a given direction, and it’ll go and find you a course using the map set it has.

DSC_8781 DSC_8782

Well technically, it will offer up three routes for you to choose from:

DSC_8783 DSC_8794 DSC_8792

You can then execute these courses just like you would any other course.  It’s great for running or riding in places you don’t know, since it’s going to leverage cycling routes and other non-car friendly options when available.

I’d note that the creation of the route can take a wee bit of time.  Within the city, it would take about 60-90 seconds (easily) per route.  Whereas out in the middle of nowhere it was far quicker.

The other downside is that it does depend on the trail data within the mapset.  For example in Spain when I was in a hiking mecca, the base mapset (it was a European Fenix 5X edition), didn’t include any (or at least, many) of these local trails.  So the only options it gave me for hiking/running were on the main roads.  Which was definitely a bummer.

Inversely, in Chamonix in France – I got tons of great options for routing, and many/most trails were understood.

Next, we’ve got the 5X’s ability to search through local points of interest.  This means you can lookup a place to eat, or a place to get gas (useful for also finding food or water on a long ride), and many other places:


Once you select a POI, you can route to it as well just like before. This is essentially the same functionality you’d find on the Garmin handheld series.  And again, none of this requires a phone to work.  It can be done totally without any connectivity.  What’s cool about this is the Around Me function, which has the watch tell you everything around you:


Or, you can filter it to just certain categories – like food.


What’s interesting is you if you look above you’ll see a little wedge on the upper right portion of the circle – kinda like two clock hands.  This allows you to press the red button and then get a listing of places within just that wedge.  Thus narrowing down the list.


You can rotate that little pizza pie around, to zoom in on another section:

DSC_8776 DSC_8777

And all of this does work pretty darn well.  However, there are some tricks to making things work better, especially on route creation.

First, when using Garmin Connect’s site, you’ll likely try first in satellite mode.  That’s fine, as that’s the best bet for figuring out routes.  However, it won’t always work.  For example, in this simple case I tried to create a route between the road and that beach you see down south of it.  The red line is what happened when I told it to connect those two points:


So basically, it didn’t find anything there routing wise.  Pretty much useless.

Instead, if you try clicking the dropdown in the upper right and select “OpenStreetMap” from the upper left corner, and try again.  Ahh….much better!


Note in both cases I left on the option for ‘Stay on Roads’, which also translates to ‘Stay on trails’.  Else it’d just connect the two dots and ignore roads.

The point being here that you’ll definitely need to experiment a bit.  Also, somewhat frustrating you still have to do this all via desktop computer.  There’s no option for doing this via your phone.

And the above is a perfect example of that.  On this roadway it’d be very common for folks to stop at that parking lot and then want go to for a few mile/kilometer hike.  There are many options (some of them you can plainly see in the map).  Yet planning those would require getting back out a desktop computer, unless the Fenix 5X happened to know about it (and in the case of this area, it didn’t know about many trails I tried).

Which ultimately gets to my final point here: The 5X is very cool, and generally quite responsive.  And if you’ve done enough planning it works out really well.  Or, if you’re just in an area where the mapping quality is good.  But if you’re not, then you’ve paid an extra pile of money for something that a $1 phone app tends to do a lot better.  Or, as I said years ago in my previous Fenix reviews: I want to be able to plan routes from my phone and then immediately transfer them to my watch.  Is that asking too much?

Heart Rate Sensor Accuracy:


The Fenix 5 series includes Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensor built into the bottom of it, which I used both in workouts as well as in 24×7 continual HR monitoring mode.  With the Fenix 5, this sensor got a slight overhaul/upgrade, most notably when in 24×7 mode.  Previous to this, Garmin’s Elevate sensor would sample rather infrequently (outside of workouts), at rates from every few seconds to every few hours.  It was all over the map.

But with the new lower-power Fenix 5 optical sensor, it now samples every 1-2 seconds. Basically, it’s always on.  In addition to the change in sampling frequency, they’ve also reduced the sensor bump.  Of course – my goal is to find out if there were any undesired repercussions from this, specifically in sport mode.  When it came to 24×7 mode, the new data looks much better, and the accuracy seems spot on for casual activities like watching TV, walking, or just living life.


Thus with each subsequent new unit released I re-visit sensor accuracy.  While it’s the same physical hardware, one can see the impact that firmware updates make.  Additionally, each watch has a slightly different form factor (exterior design), which can impact accuracy in terms of external light getting into the sensor area (which degrades accuracy of optical HR sensors).

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position and how the band is worn are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got long/steady runs, hard interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides.  Not to mention skiing and hiking.  Night and day, sun and snow.  I’ve got it all!

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the HRM-TRI), as well as often another optical HR sensor made by Scosche and in some cases also a Suunto Spartan Wrist HR that I’m also testing. I generally consider the Scosche sensors to be the most accurate optical HR sensors for fitness/workouts today.  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.

Let’s dive into the first data set.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

First let’s start off with an interval run of sorts.  The first part is a bit of a warm-up, and then I go into four interval sets of about 5 minutes each, followed by three slightly more intense (but shorter intervals).  On one arm I had the Fenix 5 with the optical HR sensor.  On the other I had a Suunto Spartan Ultra paired to a Scosche Rhythm+, and then I had a Fenix 3 paired to an HRM-TRI heart rate strap.  Here’s the overview:


So, a couple of things.  First up is at the front we see the two optical sensors match nicely, while the HRM-TRI chest strap is a bit low.  This is actually an interesting case because the chest strap is wrong here.  A classic case of a cooler day (with some light winds) and it taking a few minutes to ‘click’.  I believe I added some more spit to the chest strap around the 6-8 minute marker, and adjusted it a bit and then it matched nicely.

And in fact, from that point forward throughout the rest of the intervals things are really very clean and actually some of the best tracking I’ve seen.  If I were to nitpick a bit more, it looks like at the end of the first interval the HR strap properly reduces the HR quicker than the optical sensors by a few seconds, but nothing major.  You’ll notice at the start of the 3rd interval I appear to ‘lose’ the connectivity to the Scosche.  Said another way: The battery died and quite literally flat-lined.


But for the rest of the run, even during the very short/hard sprints at the end, the Fenix 5 is looking quite good.


Next, let’s look at another run (this time back home in Paris).  This time a somewhat steady-state run, but it included some rollers, which means my HR was constantly shifting.  Additionally, cadence was shifting a bit too as I’d go up/down slight inclines.


At a high glance, things track relatively close.  But there are some quirks.  For example, early on there’s a bit of separation, which I’ll give the HRM-TRI strap as being the more correct of the two.


And then into the run, if you pick it apart more closely you see where the optical HR sensor seems to be slightly overshooting and occasionally undershooting little shifts in intensity.  It’s not massive, and only lasts a few seconds each time.  But it is notable.


Most people would consider the above nitpicking, but it’s certainly worthwhile pointing out.

In general, most of my runs mirror the above results.  Usually it’s pretty good, and usually it doesn’t miss any major moments.  I have found in general if there’s going to be an issue, it’s almost always going to happen in the first 120-180 seconds.  While I often wait a few seconds longer after ensuring an HR lock, I haven’t seen that have a major impact on my first few minute success one way or the other.

Next, let’s shift to a cycling.  This is historically where Garmin’s optical HR sensors have struggled.  I’m going to pick an outdoor ride, namely because you can check out one of my trainer rides below and see it performed almost flawlessly (the optical HR sensor).  Outdoor is hard, indoor is easy.  This ride was almost 8 hours long, so there’s lots of variability in pacing and such.  So I’m really going to focus on one of the climbs I did, since that was a bit more intense.


Here’s that climb, once zoomed in:


You can see it definitely missed the first 4-5 minutes, being offset by about 20bpm (that’s a lot), but then it seemed to lock in pretty well for much of the rest of the climb, save a few moments here and there.  Still, not quite ideal.

Next, another section of that ride before a break where a small group of us were rotating through at pretty high intensity for about 10 minutes or so.  You’ll notice that it got the general plot correct, but was still off 3-6bpm for fair chunks of time.


And this is in general what I’d see.  The Fenix 5 Elevate optical HR sensor is definitely improved over the first generation Garmin Elevate sensors (either via firmware or hardware) when it comes to cycling, but it still leaves a bit to be desired in this area.  Personally, I’ll use a HR strap or other optical HR sensor (i.e. the Scosche) while cycling outdoors.  For indoor trainer use, the Fenix 5 optical HR sensor seems just fine though (no vibrations on the road to screw it up).

So overall – I’d say things are pretty good (the best we’ve seen from Garmin’s sensor tech) while running, but a mixed bag while cycling.  Note that Garmin doesn’t enable the optical HR sensor during swimming (either indoor or openwater), except to simply sample for your 24×7 HR.  So while you’ll see the light go on and off, that data isn’t recorded to the workout file.  Garmin has experimented more with this in recent months, but still doesn’t believe the accuracy is there yet to keep it on while doing swim activities.  For that, you’ll still need/want either the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM straps to pair with.

Lastly, here’s a table of all my activities on final or near-final software from the last couple of weeks:

Garmin Fenix 5 Data Sets

DateWorkout TypeData TypeUnits UsedComparison Link
Mar 22ndRunningGPS FocusedFenix 5 + HRM-RUN, Spartan Wrist HR, FR735XT no HRMAnalyze
Mar 21stRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with HRM-RUNAnalyze
Mar 20thRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with HRM-RUNAnalyze
Mar 19thCycling (Easy)GPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR-XAnalyze
Mar 12-18thTons of skiingGPS/HRFenix 5Single device only
Mar 8thCyclingGPS/HRFenix 5, Wahoo BOLT with TICKR HRAnalyze
Mar 7thCyclingGPS/HRFenix 5, Wahoo BOLT with TICKR HRAnalyze
Mar 7thOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze
Mar 5thIndoor TrainerHRFenix 5, Crapton of Edge/Wahoo paired to TICKR-X HR strapAnalyze
Mar 4thRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Fenix 3 with HRM-TRIAnalyze
Mar 1stOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze
Mar 1stRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra with Scosche, Fenix 3 with HRM-TRIAnalyze
Feb 27thOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze

All of the above link to the DCR Analyzer data, where you can then dig into the individual activities in more detail if you’d like.  Further, you can download the original data at the bottom of each page.

GPS Accuracy:


There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them.  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to my shoulder straps of a CamelBak.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy too.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  So my training over the last nearly 3 months have covered over 61 workouts with the Fenix 5 in the following locales:

Cycling: Australia, France, Spain, United States
Running/Hiking: Australia, France, Spain, Finland, United States
Openwater Swimming: Australia, Spain
Skiing: France, Italy

These have included the following condition types:

Dense forests, desert mountains, cliff-laden mountains, the highest peaks in the Alps, tons of city running/cycling, light forests/suburbia, generic dessert (flats), coastal roads, open oceans

Almost all of my activities are available on Strava from the last three months, and almost all of those are from the Fenix 5.

When it comes to the data I’m focusing on for accuracy details in this review, I’m going to mostly limit it to the last few weeks, since earlier data was beta data.  Though even in earlier beta conditions, I rarely had issues with GPS accuracy.  During the beta (where software is being worked on), the only issues I saw were related to openwater swimming – but Garmin has since addressed those.  I also saw a weird quirk with respect to tunnels, which Garmin has also since addressed (or at least, I haven’t seen it again).  Such as in my run yesterday it are tracked through this tunnel area.

So while I’m focusing on data from the near-term, since that’s largely on final/production firmware – this data is indicative of the kind of data I saw throughout my time period with the unit.

First, let’s just start off with a run.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, a tool you can use as well.  Details here.

This run is fairly straight-forward in that it’s along the beach in Barcelona, but I figure it’s a good place to start.  Plus, I make some nice turns/loops near some buildings to add a layer of complexity.


While running along the main portion of the boardwalk, things were just fine – which is largely to be expected.  It’s pretty open.


Once I got towards the end of this stretch of beach, I decided to do some interval loops around a set of buildings.  These buildings, in particular along the roadway, would have me running within 1 meter of 6-8 story structures.  A great place to see how well it could hold a track.


Looking at the above, the Fenix 5 most accurately tracked where I was.  The Fenix 3 in second place, and the Spartan Ultra cutting the corners at every opportunity.  The Fenix 5 even correctly tracked when I brain-farted and missed the turn at the very southern tip – having to turn back around slightly.

Let’s look closer though at going down the roadway next to the buildings (left side):


You can see here that the Fenix 5 easily threads the needle on this, keeping my track properly between the two sets of buildings.  Good stuff.  Interestingly however, each time I passed this massive lookout tower, all three units veered left (even though I stayed to the right).  Clearly some sort of interference going on there.


Ok, next, we’ve got another run, this one a bit more tricky within the city of Paris, closer to major buildings and such.


I run this route a lot as a test route.  And in particular I’m looking for a few things.  First, does it correctly cross the bridge and not cut the corner.  In this case, the answer is yes, it nails it.



Next, as I go down the tree and building lined canal – does it follow my track and not get distracted by large structures?

On the way in (right side), the answer is yes, it stays on the track quite nicely.  On the way out (left side), it almost perfectly gets it, but then takes one diversion into the side of the building by about 5m, just as I crossed the road up against the building.


Next, how does it handle the tunnel, highlighted in yellow (about 200m long)?  I’m looking here for it to not get distracted and go off into the buildings at either entrance/exit when it loses satellite reception.  It does so better than the FR735XT, though not quite as nicely as the Suunto Spartan Ultra (though, up above the Spartan Ultra is in the buildings for most of the canal test area).


Finally, as I come back onto the islands, I’m looking that it manages to hold track without putting me in either the water or the buildings.  This is another really tough spot because of the tight roads and tallish buildings.  But it does well, without any issues.


Note, I would move onto a cycling activity – but I’ll be honest – they’re boring.  And they all look perfect. So, rather than just showing you perfection, let’s nitpick something else.

So next, we’ve got an openwater swim.  This one is an interesting openwater swim – and one I highlighted up above in the openwater swim video.  I like it because it’s actually a fairly complex swim track.  What you see here is the Fenix 5 on my wrist, the Fenix 3 on the swim buoy trailing above/behind me, and then the Suunto Spartan Ultra as well in the mix (it got started late, but we can still look at the track from that point forward).  Here’s the overall track.


Let’s zoom into the first 1/3rd or so, and see how that looks.

You can see below that the smoothest is the purple line on the swim buoy, however the Fenix 5 is reasonably close to it.  It bobs a little bit to the side here and there – though not a massive amount.  This is common for openwater swim tracks as it’s not quite as precise as being above water the entire time.


Next, we’re looking at the middle section (passing another pier), when I properly started the Suunto Spartan Ultra.  You can see that in general the Fenix 5 and Fenix 3 maintain the same dance.  The swim buoy laden Fenix 3 is smoother of course, but the Fenix 5 is pretty darn similar.  The Suunto Spartan Ultra isn’t really competing at this point.  I don’t know what it’s doing, but it’s been a continual problem for me in OW swims.  Suunto now has the unit and is trying to figure out what’s up with it.


Next, this last part where I come into this sheltered area behind the break wall.  I selected this route on purpose, specifically because it was complex.  And the two Garmin watches actually did quite well at mirroring not only each other, but also my exact track (interestingly, it’s here that it’s obvious the Fenix3 was accidentally in smart recording mode).  In fact, technically the Fenix 5 actually correctly cornered the last turn around the rocks a bit more perfectly.


If we look at the final distances, here’s where they stand:


In this case the Fenix 5 had an overage over the reference track by about 180 meters.  That’s a tiny bit more than I’d like to see (ideally I want it +/- 10%), though, it’s in the ballpark for openwater swim units.  Note DO NOT LOOK AT the distance for the Spartan.  Remember, that was started 500m into the swim (i.e. 1320m + at least 500m).  So it’s already added a bunch of extra distance; obviously, it’s way off.

So overall, it’s not too shabby.  I also included another two openwater swims in these sets down below – which gave comparable (or slightly better) results.

Note that I’m just highlighting the above three GPS data sets, but everything else is below in the table.  I picked the above three because I felt that covered the most varied of conditions – and were also representative of what I saw on the whole.  Some days/areas were slightly better, and some areas/days slightly worse.  But nothing in terms of major outliers.

Here’s a table of all my activities on final or near-final software from the last 2-4 weeks.  Note that in general, I’m excluding activities where I didn’t have multiple devices, or excluding activities where GPS isn’t involved (i.e. indoor treadmill runs or similar).  As well as stuff from earlier beta firmware versions.

Garmin Fenix 5 Data Sets

DateWorkout TypeData TypeUnits UsedComparison Link
Mar 22ndRunningGPS FocusedFenix 5 + HRM-RUN, Spartan Wrist HR, FR735XT no HRMAnalyze
Mar 21stRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with HRM-RUNAnalyze
Mar 20thRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with HRM-RUNAnalyze
Mar 19thCycling (Easy)GPS/HRFenix 5, Spartan Wrist HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR-XAnalyze
Mar 12-18thTons of skiingGPS/HRFenix 5Single device only
Mar 8thCyclingGPS/HRFenix 5, Wahoo BOLT with TICKR HRAnalyze
Mar 7thCyclingGPS/HRFenix 5, Wahoo BOLT with TICKR HRAnalyze
Mar 7thOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze
Mar 5thIndoor TrainerHRFenix 5, Crapton of Edge/Wahoo paired to TICKR-X HR strapAnalyze
Mar 4thRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Fenix 3 with HRM-TRIAnalyze
Mar 1stOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze
Mar 1stRunningGPS/HRFenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra with Scosche, Fenix 3 with HRM-TRIAnalyze
Feb 27thOpenwater SwimGPSFenix 5, Fenix 3 on Swim Buoy (Reference)Analyze

(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.)

Sensor Support (ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart):


The Fenix 5 series is the first Garmin unit to not only support a slew of ANT+ sensors, but also now supports Bluetooth Smart sensors.  Previously Garmin would only utilize the Bluetooth side of the house for connecting to your phone via Bluetooth Smart.  Now however, you can connect to both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, assuming both follow published standards.

At present, the Fenix 5 supports the following sensor types:

ANT+ External Heart Rate Sensor
ANT+ Cycling Power Meter
ANT+ Cycling Speed-only, Cadence-only, and Speed/Cadence Combo Sensors
ANT+ Running Footpod
ANT+ Gear Shifting Profile (SRAM RED eTAP/Campagnolo EPS)
ANT+ External Temperature Sensors (Tempe)
ANT+ Lighting Sensors (Garmin Varia/Bontrager lights)
ANT+ Radar Systems (Garmin Varia Radar)
ANT+ Remote Display (Varia Vision heads up display)
ANT+ Muscle Oxygenation Sensor (i.e. Moxy/BSX)
ANT Shimano Di2 Gear Shifting Profile
ANT Garmin VIRB Action Camera Control
Bluetooth Smart External Heart Rate Sensor
Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed-only, Cadence-only, and Speed/Cadence Combo Sensors
Bluetooth Smart Cycling Power Meters
Bluetooth Smart Running Footpods

Phew! Lots of sensor types!

Now, the most important wording I noted above was ‘follow published standards’.  On the ANT+ side, this means either following specific adopted ANT+ profiles (i.e. the heart rate sensor or gear shifting profile), or in a few limited cases, following company-specific standards.  For example, Shimano Di2 doesn’t technically follow the ANT+ gear shifting standard, rather, they’ve done their own thing.  But they were the first to do that thing, so everyone supports it anyway.

Where things get messy is private/extended variants of standards, especially on the Bluetooth Smart side.  For example – running dynamics.  There is no standard on either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart for running dynamic type data (i.e. vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc…).  Instead, Garmin uses private-ANT (just like Shimano does for Di2).  And other companies like Wahoo with the TICKR series use private methods over Bluetooth Smart.  These aren’t compatible.  Meaning that you’ll get base heart rate data – but you won’t get any running dynamics stuff when using a non-Garmin strap.  Maybe some day, but today is not that day.

The same is true of offline data, meaning the ability for a heart rate strap to cache/save data when not connected to a watch.  Garmin uses this with the HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM heart rate straps to save data while you swim, because it can’t send that data to the watch through the water.  When connected again, Garmin uses the standard ANT+ ANTfs offloading capability to allow a watch to download that data.  This is a published standard (and has been for more than half a decade).

However, others don’t follow this standard, and there is no equivalent published standard for offloading fitness data on Bluetooth Smart.  Thus other companies do it differently.  For example, both Polar’s new H10 and Wahoo’s TICKR-X can save data offline, as can Stryd, Suunto, and 4iiii heart rate straps.  But none do so the same way on Bluetooth Smart, let alone utilize the ANT+ ANTfs standard for offloading.

Said more simply: You’ll need a Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM strap to download data.  And you’ll need either a Garmin HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN to get running dynamics.

Of course, folks could pressure both sides of the equation to support other standards.  For example, folks could pressure Garmin to open up Running Dynamics to be an ANT+ standard for a variety of efficiency metrics (nobody has tried harder to pressure them to do so than I).  And inversely, folks could pressure companies like Wahoo and 4iiii to support ANTfs offloading of data from the strap for offline access.

Finally – some might wonder if you can use Polar’s H7/H10 and other like straps that transmit heart rate signals underwater live, to do so to the Fenix 5 (underwater).  The answer no.  That’s because while underwater the Polar device doesn’t use Bluetooth Smart to connect to these straps, but rather an analog frequency (the same one used for gym treadmills and such), which Garmin doesn’t support.

Here’s a simplified FAQ section, since I’ve seen about 1,328 questions about this:

Will the Garmin Fenix 5 support running dynamics from my Wahoo TICKR strap?

No, see above for details.  It will read the heart rate data just fine.

Will the Garmin Fenix 5 connect to my PowerTap P1 pedals via Bluetooth Smart?

Yes, they can. You’ll connect both sides (Left/Right) and the Garmin will properly track left/right balance.  However, because there is no standard for Torque Efficiency and Pedal Smoothness on Bluetooth Smart, you won’t get those unless you connect via ANT+.  The general guidance of *every* power meter company I talk to in the industry is given the option to connect your power meter over ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart, always choose ANT+.

Will my power meter work flawlessly over Bluetooth Smart?

I’m just gonna be straight about this now: This will continue to be a mess.  Garmin has done a pretty good job in getting compatibility working for the dozen+ ways that power meter companies have adopted the Bluetooth Smart standards in power meters.  In the few BLE power meters I’ve tested, they’ve worked.  But I haven’t tested every firmware version of every unit out there – and I can guarantee some don’t work.  It sucks.  A lot.  Garmin isn’t the only one shaking their head.  Everyone is.  Different companies handle it differently.  Suunto has tried as well to just ‘make it work’ as quickly as possible, while Polar seems to drag its heels on making things work.  Everyone I talk to in the industry here about this topic truly sighs and puts their head in their hands in frustration.

Who to blame is a mixed bag, but either way, the consumer is left holding said bag.  The good news is that every power meter out there except the Polar power meters support dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, so just use ANT+ and don’t worry about it.

Will the Fenix 5 connect to my Polar strap underwater?

No; said Polar strap uses analog signals to broadcast underwater.  Garmin doesn’t have that hardware in the Fenix series to connect to that.

Does this mean the end of ANT+?

Not likely.  I do think it applies pressure to ANT+ though to maintain relevance, but I think they can do that through things like standardizing running metrics and stuff – thus encouraging companies to utilize the platform. But until the day comes where I can look back on the preceding 6-12 months and say that every Bluetooth Smart power meter (or cycling sensor) has worked flawlessly with every head unit (from a connection standpoint), then ANT+ will likely continue to do quite well.

Can I connect to my ANT+ FE-C trainer?

No, Garmin’s wearable lineup does not support connecting to/controlling via ANT+ FE-C.  However, virtually all trainers that support FE-C also broadcast ANT+ Power/Speed – so you can still connect to those signals just fine.  You just can’t control the trainer from the watch.  For that, you’ll need another app/device.

Can I connect multiple Bluetooth Smart sensors?

Yes and no.  You can connect multiple sensors to a Fenix 5 – no issues there.  However, you cannot connect multiple devices to a single Bluetooth Smart sensor.  So if you’re connected to your Bluetooth Smart heart rate strap with the Zwift app (on your phone), then the Fenix 5 will be unable to connect to it as well.  That’s because Bluetooth Smart at this time cannot accept multiple master device connections.

Bluetooth 5.0 does resolve this (upcoming), but so did Bluetooth 4.1 – and nobody has adopted either from a sensor standpoint in the sports industry yet.  ANT+ does not have these limitations, a key reason it’s used in gym/coaching scenarios today.

Bugs & Quirks:


I often include a section in my review about specific bugs and quirks seen in the product.  From a software development standpoint, there’s often a fine line between a bug that needs fixing – and what the software industry calls ‘by design’.  Meaning it’s not technically a bug, but rather something that’s designed that way (however sucky that might be).  In my case, I’m going to call those ‘quirks’.

Given I’ve been testing a pile of units since the day it has come out, I’ve got boatloads of time on said units.  Much of that time has been on beta firmware versions.  In general, I’m drawing the line that I’m only going to cover bugs seen in the final production version of things.  After all – that’s somewhat the point of beta – to rid itself of bugs.  I have however been tracking bugs I saw during beta, and specifically validating those have been fixed in the production version.

Also, note that I’m specifically looking at issues *I’ve encountered* during swim/bike/run/ski/hike/daily use/etc…  This isn’t designed to be the end-all-be-all of bugs that may exist in the product.

With that, here’s where I stand:

Bug – Connect IQ Issues with Stryd Running Power Meter: I get constant dropouts with the Stryd footpod using their Connect IQ Data Field app.  Ironically I didn’t have this earlier in beta, but it surfaced in the last 3-4 weeks. At present this appears solved in the latest un-released beta, which will likely hit shortly.  At least, it was resolved in my run yesterday (for the past month it’s been broke).  I’ll cross this out once things publish to production.

Stryd Update (Aug 1st, 2017): This has slowly manifested itself more clearly to be limited to the Fenix 5/5S (but not the 5X or FR935).  It also impacts a few other random sensors in edge cases, but is more obvious with Stryd.  Stryd no longer recommends people use either the 5/5S with Stryd, and I agree.  I’ve run countless runs with it and Stryd, and the experience just sucks as much as it has 6 months ago.  It’s part of why I use the FR935 instead (I also like smaller watches).  As for potential fixes, it sounds like that ship has sailed.  Stryd doesn’t have much they can do from a chipset standpoint, and it sounds like Garmin pushed the boundaries of the chipsets in the 5/5S a bit too much from a reception standpoint.  I asked for another update last week (July 27th) from Garmin on the issue, specifically asking if either a software or hardware update was possible, or if changes to hardware were being made.  Here’s the response:

“We are aware that there are reports of ANT+ reception issues, particularly with some specific devices. Garmin is looking at ways to improve the performance, but there does not appear at this time to be a “quick fix” software update. We do anticipate future designs to improve support for identified third-party devices that are not consistently meeting expectations today.”

Translation: It needs a hardware update (and that’s based on talking to a fair number of people in the know).  My bet here is that at some magical point in the future there will be a small but undeclared chipset change on the 5/5S.  It’ll likely happen as quietly as the new manufacturer static testing procedures for resolving the Fenix 3HR altimeter issues (and why you don’t see those issues on other new units).  And my bet is after that point folks can probably call in and ask for a swap of a unit without issue (like you can do now for those seeing F3HR altimeter issues).  But I also could be wrong.  They could just never update the chipsets involved and it’ll remain a broken scenario.  The irony here being that Stryd is probably THE app that Garmin holds up most often as a Connect IQ partner, and they’ve essentially screwed them on their best selling and most premier device.

Bug – Drops in ANT+ Connectivity when Shimano Di2 Connected: This annoying bug manifests itself only when connected to Shimano Di2, which will cause near continuous drops of other ANT+ sensors (i.e. power meters, external heart rate sensors, cadence sensors, etc….). Note that this appears to be happening significantly less in the most recent software versions –  but it is still happening enough to me that I can repro it. So I think they’re getting closer to fixing it.

Bug/Quirk/Something – Optical HR accuracy in outdoor cycling definitely leaves something to be desired.  Running seems pretty good, outside of a few blips sometimes in the first minute or two.

Quirk – There’s no quick release kit: One of my top complaints about the Fenix 3, before they released one, and the same is true here.  For a triathlon/multisport watch, it’s a pretty big omission.  Hopefully, Garmin will be able to find a way to create a quick release kit, similar to what they eventually created for the Fenix 3.  Obviously, this would likely block the optical HR sensor, but I think that’s a fair trade-off in a triathlon where you’re likely to be using the HRM-TRI heart rate strap for recording HR underwater anyway.

Now in some ways, what’s more important than the bugs I stumble on is how the company reacts to the bugs you stumble on.  In general, Garmin has a pretty good track record of tackling software-focused bugs relatively quickly.

Where they have less than an ideal track record is tackling trickier bugs – such as one that seemingly popped up for some Fenix 3HR users this past fall – making their barometers pretty much useless.  The company has dragged their heels for 4-5 months now (despite my constant reminders about the topic), and their most recent response is just as unhelpful.  There’s a very real slice of the population who have units that just don’t work (there’s, of course, a far larger chunk of the population that are just fine).  It’s these sorts of incidents that are less settling when they happen.

Hopefully though we won’t see any unforeseen major issues with the Fenix 5, and that any uncaught bugs are quickly squished.  As is the case, I’m currently testing the next firmware version – which fixes bugs that while not impacting me, no doubt impact someone.

Product Comparison Tool:


The Fenix 5 is loaded into the product comparison tool.  At this point I’ve consolidated the three variants into a single entry, since the tool focuses on features more than sizes.  The variations are noted accordingly in the entry below.  For comparison sake, I’ve placed it against the Fenix 3 HR, as well as the Suunto Spartan Ultra, and then the FR735XT.  You can, of course, mix and match your own comparisons using the comparison tool here, thus adding products as you see fit.

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 5th, 2018 @ 2:50 pmNew Window
Product Announcement DateJan 5th, 2016Jan 4th, 2017Jan 4th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateFebruary 2016March 2017Mar 31st, 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi (Sapphire only)USB & 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 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 75hrs in UltraTrac GPSUp to 50 hours
Recording Interval1S OR SMART1S or SmartVariable
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreat
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYEsNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesSteps only (not distance/sleep)
MusicGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Can control phone musicYEsYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNo
PaymentsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesNo
Group trackingNoYesNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Designed for cyclingYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYesNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoYesNo
Crash detectionNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
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 RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)No
Running PowerWith extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationYEsYEsYes
Race PredictorYesYesNo
Recovery AdvisorYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYEsYesNo
SwimmingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
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-SWIM (Not with optical HR)Yes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YEsYEsYes
Indoor Drill ModeYEsYesNo
Indoor auto-pause featureYEsNo (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No
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 Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Designed for triathlonYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYEsYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
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)YesYesno
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesNo
Weather Display (live data)yESYesno
NavigateGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYEsYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoYes (5X Only)No
Back to startYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoYes (5X Only)No
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricGPS
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)No
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 ControlNoYesNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoYesNo
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 AppsYesNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoYesNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapablenOYesYes (+ Stryd Running Power Meter)
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoYEsYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsYesYes-
SoftwareGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
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Again – remember you can make your own comparisons using the comparison tool here.



I think it’s fair to say that the Fenix 5 is the best watch Garmin has ever made.  While it may not be revolutionary in terms of features, it’s more of a polished evolutionary update.  After nearly three months of usage, there are very few items I can quibble about in terms of oddities or quirks.  And the early feedback from all of you after you’ve had nearly two weeks of usage since Garmin has started shipping seems largely the same.

Certainly, there are little things I’d like to see changed – but those are actually mostly on the platform side.  For example, the mobile app supporting route creation, or the ability to see better web/app trending on the new training load and recovery metrics.  Similarly, if you come from something like an Apple Watch you’ll also miss the ability to get pictures from text messages on the watch.  But that type of display/capability of course comes at a heavy price on battery life.  Certainly not a tradeoff I’m willing to make yet.

And that’s a key thing to understand: Sure, the Apple Watch has a brilliant display that looks stunning.  And it has many apps.  But…it also lasts one hole whopping day of battery.  Maybe two if you’re lucky.  Watches like those from Garmin, Suunto and Polar are instead designed to last weeks and have battery for GPS activities over 50 hours.  It’s just a different market.  More importantly, they’ve got easy to use tactile buttons for numerous functions that the Apple Watch lacks (as do some Android Wear watches).  Which isn’t to say there isn’t a place for an Apple Watch, there absolutely is.  It’s just not on the wrist of a triathlete in an Ironman, nor on the wrist of someone on a multiday hike through the Alps.

In any event, I suspect that either the 5 or the 5S will become my daily watch going forward (I tend to like smaller watches over the larger 5X).  The Fenix 5 has quick responsiveness, accuracy, and is easy to use.  Simple as that.

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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.

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  1. Angelov

    Yes! I’ve been refreshing your page for the last 12 hours! Cant wait to read it!
    Thank you!

  2. Michael Coyne

    Is now a bad time to point out that we’ve all been breaking our F5 keys waiting for your F5 review? Lol.

  3. Sebastian

    Great review as always! I really like my fenix 5x, but am affected by two mayor bugs (that others don’t seem to be having): transfering certain GPX files causes the watch to crash as does activating the Strava Live Segments sync in GC. Support was very responsive and told me they already had a fix for both issues included in the next firmware. Still rather annoying as those were the two features I was looking forward to the most.

    • Yeah, I tried to reproduce your Strava Live Segments bug (even again yesterday while out taking photos), and can’t repro it. But sounds like they’ve got you all sorted.

  4. David

    Great review. I’m saving up to buy this watch.
    1 question regarding move IQ.
    For regular walks => does it take into account the intensity of the walk (via HR) to calculate your Kcal burn ? (or is there a difference in kcal burn when you would activate walking as a profile)

    • MJSOL

      Move IQ won’t give you much data at all. Just a note that you were moving and the time (usually inaccurate) you were moving. I don’t have the Fenix 5 yet, but from the review, it’s the same as my VAHR and Vivofit3.

      To get data about intensity of your walk, you will need to tell it you are about to start a walk before you begin. Then you will get the information you need.

  5. James

    If you want an honnest gps accuracy review: see Fellrnr (Jonathan Savage). His first impressions are that GPS accuracy is terrible! DC Rainmaker gets paid by Garmin!

    • Neil Jones

      I’m sure you can back a claim like that up with some evidence.

      Or are you just unable to deal with opinions that challenge your own conceptions and therefore have to come up with reasons to dismiss them?

    • Webvan

      Sounds a bit harsh to me and unsubstantiated as to the “getting paid” part, this would fall into slander actually unless yo have actual proof ?

      I will say though that I find it a bit surprising (and likely to lead to disappointed readers) that Ray has not seen any of the GPS tracking problems (poor handling of multipath) or oHR (basically no better than the FR235 (i.e. unreliable) that many of us have seen.

    • It’s interesting that you bring up the FR235 – because I just haven’t seen many comments on that review (in the comments section) about GPS issues (OHR has about the norm, and I showed in that review where things worked/didn’t work).

      As for Fellrnr, I appreciate the testing he does – but don’t agree with his methods. Testing the exact same short trail segment over and over and over and over again is not indicative of what most people do. That’s why I have varied trails, runs, routes and conditions all over the place. I believe that most people don’t run the exact same trail every day of their life. Also – I actually provide all my GPS tracks (raw data), for folks to analyze. Something that Fellrnr also doesn’t do.

      Finally, you’re welcome to look through all my data above, as well as my Strava account. Given that some 7,724 people follow me on Strava, folks love to point out even the slightest GPS accuracy issue.

    • Jon Niehof

      So, conspiracy theories aside, it’s good to know others have seen GPS problems, since I had (and still have) no end of issues with my fenix 3, that Ray simply didn’t experience. Sounds like the 5 isn’t an improvement.

      (Issue 1: useless instant pace. I’m not looking for perfection, but something that’s vaguely useful, at least comparable to the 310XT. Forcing footpod-only pace is so-so half the time and reads steady 3 minute miles the other half the time. I wish. Issue 2 is hiking mileage reading somewhere between actual, wheeled trail mileage and 25% short, no pattern. Not good for what’s supposed to be a trail watch.)

    • Crispin E.

      In addition to all that’s been said, I’ve just checked the fellrnr website and it’s clear that there isn’t yet a score for GPS accuracy (presumably he’s still testing), hence a zero in that box. At least wait until he’s actually published a result before quoting publicly.

    • I actually show instant pace in a video in the review…it’s reasonably good. I haven’t seen anyone complain about that performance, and that video has been up nearly a month.

      As for GPS accuracy – I’ve been following the forums pretty closely, and we can count the total number of bad tracks on a single hand (seriously). We’ve got another hand for people that had smart recording on and posted odd tracks (common misunderstanding), or didn’t understand that Garmin Connect doesn’t actually show the true GPS track. I think that’s pretty good given the thousands of units shipped thus far and the fact that everyone likes to post even the slightest GPS track oddity.

    • Raul

      Garmin Connect doesn’t actually show the true GPS track??

      I don’t understand this. It never does? Or just as a result of ‘smart’ registering?

    • Raul

      The more exact repeating the more meaningful the result!! Standard approach in science.

    • It doesn’t show all the points, so it’ll make things worse than it is. It basically plots less points.

      As for repeating the same track – not really. It’s just repeating one track. It’s just telling you how something does on that single track over and over. It doesn’t tell you how it does across a multitude of conditions/sports. Also, by not showing watches from the same day/run, one runs the risk of not understanding how things like weather can impact performance. If you run Watch A on a sunny day, and Watch B on a rainy day, albeit the same trail but with minor nuances – should you really compare them? Say you pause for a second longer at one tree to let someone pass? Why compare to a day that you didn’t pause there? Two different tracks…

    • Raul

      And I wonder how many users are closely inspecting the GPS reg……….. in other words: 10 complaints might be 3x that. Or whatever………

    • Raul

      That’s completely true. (circumstances) Haven’t looked at these tests yet. Trying to get on the bike, while sun is still shining. (using good old 810 🙂

    • Joe

      The other variable that can’t be accounted for is how many satellites are in view at any one time. If one track had 4 or 5 satellites in view the whole time and the next time you ran the same route you only had 3 satellites in view (the bare minimum for a position fix), you are going to get a less accurate track recorded. Some of that could be caused by the watch’s design, but it’s also subject to the position of the satellites at any given them. Even if weather conditions are identical, a 4th satellite might be available on one run be behind an obstruction the next time.

      Running the same track over and over again can have some value, but I’d hardly call it definitive as there are simply too many variables beyond your control. And as Ray points out, it’s not representative of the varied terrain most users are going to see during their activities.

    • Scott

      That’s funny. I’ve looked at his stuff and my experience is quite different than his (fellrnr). For me the Fenix 3 was TERRIBLE and the FR235 was steady as a rock. So far the Fenix 5 for one week and 40+ miles running has been great. The only note is the F3 was so bad for me horribly cutting corners and losing 0.02-0.05/mile that I only had it for the first 90 days and moved on. Any “fixes” I never saw. So far the F5 tracks are as good as any that I have ever had including my trusty old 310xt.

    • Gixr.Thou

      G’day Ray,

      Can I ask if your GPS testing was Just GPS or did you utilise GLONAS as well?

      I’m in southern Victoria, Australia, and from my understanding of the difference between the two GLONAS would benefit my accuracy.

      I currently use Polar and regularly have issues when running disused rail lines through cuttings.

      Thanks for the great review. Even keeping to the point it was long. A nice testement to the broad capabilities of the watch.

    • mikerocks

      DC rainmaker always gives Garmin thumbs up and have for years trashed Suunto, Polar…
      Wareable.com does the same but supports apple watch
      I could care less in all the subjective measurements in this blog, the Fenix 5 is just squeezing more money out of the fenix 3, so does the 935, 735.. out of the 235 … walks like a duck talks like a duck

      After having both a fenix 3 and a 235 freeze during a race I´ll never touch a garmin again !!

      Don´t fall for this paid garmin “ad-blog” without checking out polar M600, the suunto spartan+stryd combo or the TomTom adventurer first

      people aren´t stupid

      DC, just write here and deny ever getting anything from Garmin!
      Isn’t that the way you roll?

    • All my tests (GPS and otherwise) are all done with 1-second recording enabled, and GLONASS enabled.

    • Sean

      Ray wiretapped my tower!

    • gijom

      James, can you include a link to the page where Fellner talks about the Fenix 5? Is it on a forum? Could not find anything on his website. Thanks.

    • Adam Alter (not an anonymous KB warrior)

      Hi mikerocks

      As someone who owns an M600 and is obsessed, both personally and professionally, with all wearables, the M600 gets 1-2 days battery life, has no audio feedback, and I can barely feel the vibration feedback. It also can’t connect to my power meter when cycling like the Fenix 5 can. My Fenix 5 is getting 1 full week++ of battery life, and by default automatically collects 24/7 heart rate, and sleep data, as well as many other things I’ve been impressed by.

      So, go ahead and start your conspiracy theories on me as well, and refer to other sites that are run by angry trolls that ignore the bigger picture of functionality and features…or… pour in many hours of your personal time, each week, for years, into making your OWN “blog”, the way you think it should be done and see how that turns out for you. Hopefully you aren’t attacked by anonymous and ignorant trolls accusing you of hurting babies!

    • John

      Mikerocks, I gather that your anecdotal experience of having a watch freeze during a race outweighs all other criteria. How could you call the exhaustive tests posted in this and other reviews subjective? Feel free to provide a single piece of evidence for anything you say, anything at all. The data is right there for you, not that you came here to do anything but troll. I’ve never seen D.C. rainmaker make a conclusion not backed up by boatloads of data represented by charts and graphs, with video evidence to supplement it. This blog is a service and is way more detailed than it needs to be, so quit trying to denigrate good solid work with your baseless accusations, as if your words have no consequence.

    • gerhard

      @gijom fellrnr has just purchased a fenix 5x and it will take months before he has enough data to say anything about accuracy.

      @Ray: The investigation you make is subjective. fellrnr provides statistics, even for a a specific track only. Still enjoying the reviews.

      I had a 920XT and were very disappointed in the GPS accuracy. I have seen similar on other Garmin devices that are not using SirfStar. The GPS is cutting corners so running trails was pretty useless. I made an own investigation (with analyzing SW) and sold the 920 and got a Suunto Ambit 3 instead.
      I found the 920XT GPS to be mediocre, giving offtrack results in like 10% of the tests and always cutting corners. The SW is very good though, compensating the shortcomings in normal situations. The Garmin SW will give results closer to the wheel measured distance as it guesses well. The variance in the results are higher though than for Suunto or older Garmins.

    • Raul

      SW is software? Which?
      Does this weak GPS functioning influence timing? I have never understood why Connect always gives moving times that differ from the registered ones. With an older device, Edge 810. While my speed is around 35 k/h…… Every sec. reg., autopause off.

    • Patrik

      I have had the same experience but with fenix 3. Purchased based on DC in depth review that GPS was fine but then in trailrunning it was a disaster. In demanding terrain it lost 1 km during a 21 km long run which is not acceptable. Ending up returning it and bought ambit 3 instead. It is too bad that there are no examples of challenging trailrunning with the fenix 5 x and comparing it to polar v800, ambit 3 peak and Spartan. Kind of strange to test a gps that’s is made for the outdoor and wilderness in only city running….

      I want the fenix 5 to be accurate since I think it has far superior functions and capabilities comparing to for example suunto but quality of gps is key.

    • Raul

      I experienced bigger malfunctions with F3 than GPS (OK, quite little regs made, in easy circumstances and I didn’t even check them on top of that).
      I’m curious what functions you like. Cause I might buy Ambit Peak. (why don’t you have sport btw?)

    • RE: Trail running

      As noted in text in the accuracy section, I actually did trail running, though generally didn’t include tracks in the comparison piece from earlier in the beta cycle (just a standard thing really).

      That said, I did publish these tracks up on Strava as also noted:

      link to strava.com
      link to strava.com
      link to strava.com

      I’ve got comparative data from the Suunto Spartan Ultra as well as Fenix 3, and I think one other watch somewhere – gotta see what I ran with those days. I’ll try and upload it into the Analyzer for folks that want to play.

    • rickNP

      Ray just sneaked into my office and scared the hell out of me. He is David S Pumpkins!

    • B-1 Pilot

      And what about pdop, hdop, vdop, and tdop? Constellation health? GPS accuracy is as much about the status of the satellites and space weather as it is the receiving device.

      I drop GPS-aided bombs for a living — I get a chuckle out of people trying to get gnat’s ass GPS accuracy on their watch. Just Run/Bike/Swim.

      Ray’s methodology is overkill, but shows that the devices are very good and getting better every day.

    • tallyho

      B-1, that’s great (and woefully irrelevant) that you drop bombs and all, but yours is not the argument people are making. If they have consumer-grade device(s) that regularly outperform, they want the new flagship device to perform as good as those other, sometimes quite a bit older, devices. I’m not seeing anyone suggest that gnat’s ass accuracy is required, so please cite those instances when building your straw man next time.

    • Tisztul_A_Visztula

      Hi Gerhard,

      I fully rely on the opinions about GPS and any other sort of accuracy from people hanging around Sporttracks for a long time. Maybe it is just a same first name in this case, but having read your short analysis I guess it is not a coincidence.

      My findings about my previous Garmin watches was that both 310XT and 910XT had an acceptable GPS accuracy, I mean the exact locations of trackpoints. Maybe 310XT performs a bit better in the long run, but none of them had any problems of harsh corner cutting, just some occasional drifting to some direction based on which wrist you wear them and which direction you run to, or depending on the width of the streets and trails.

      When I upgraded to Fenix 3 HR and “lost SirfStar as an old friend” after having GPSMAP60CSX, Edge705 and these two watches, I was (and still am shocked) what F3HR did with trackpoints at slow speed. And even in case of decent running I am far from being pleased with it.

      BTW ST3 rulez! 😉

      But you are right as regards software. The calculated distance which is usually far from that calculated directly from trackpoints by eg. ST3 is relatively acceptable, so the software makes its best to compensate the weak performance of the combination of antenna/receiver and GPS chipset.

      This is my judgement. Finally I did not sell F3HR although I was also impacted by its barometric bug, but decided to make a try at Suunto or Polar next time. I know not even their products are perfect, but I am sick from the lies Garmin provided me in the last couple of months.

    • Dchomo

      Sounds like you might want fight the D.C. Rainmaker, let’s make this happen. You can both wear your watches and see what your HR is while getting fucking smashed in the face

    • Don

      Can you review more detailed analysis of stages power meter, trek duo tap and shimano Di2 shifting and other bike programs fenix 5 can do. Like radar etc. If you have all these going, how long does the battery last? Can fenix 5x mapping get you a bike route. How often do you have to update the maps on your watch?

    • Aprianto

      I also have problem with instant pace. I ran on a slight cloudy morning with little vegetation above me. Instant pace showed erraticly between 6:30 min/km to 9:30 min/km even when I was running on a straight road segment. I believe I did not change my pace (at least by feeling).

      Similar scenario occured when I ran on track, on an open clear night. Instant Pace again showed erratic reading even on the straight 100m segment. Instant Pace reading variance did not match my (percieved) pace

      I stop relying on Instant Pace and just look at the lap pace (which I set on per km basis).

      Also how does the instant pace work? does it calculate your distance traveled by seconds? Does it really rely on satellite lock?

    • Jim Correia

      I picked up a Fenix 5 last week. So far instance pace is pretty horrible as compared to my Garmin 610. Sometimes it feels spot on, and other times, it’s all over the place, usually to the tune of 2-3 minutes/mile slow.

      The GPS tracks, lap, and overall times all look pretty reasonable.

      Does the Fenix 5 use the same mechanism for determining pace as the 610 did? (Maybe it has a very tiny smoothing window? Relies more on GPS? Doesn’t have enough accelerometer data yet that it has a good idea of my paces?)

  6. rabbit

    Nice report, the mapping/routing part of the 5x could have been more detailed

    How do I filter for categories (for example “food”) while using the around me feature?

  7. Christophe

    You never compare the GPS accuracy with the polar v800, the GPS precision for now.

    I think you should !

    • I do actually compare some units with the V800 in many reviews. However, I generally compare with other units I’m testing. That’s why you see both the Suunto Spartan Ultra and Suunto Spartan Wrist HR in there. Given I’ve only got so many wrists, I tend to base my comparison choices against products I’m trying to do reviews on.

      Earlier in the Fenix 5 beta cycle for example most of my runs were compared against the Spartan, plus the TomTom Spark 3, since I was trying to get data done for that.

  8. Michael Coyne

    Thanks so much for the review, and covering my questions about using the Polar H10 with it. The few questions I have left (although I’m pretty set on what to buy for now at this point):
    1) Since the H10 only works with Polar Flow, how bad is it to export it and merge it into the pool/openwater swim files for Garmin Connect using say, this: link to swimmingwatchtools.com or this: link to fitfiletools.com ? I’m guessing bad, but I’m also the kind of person willing to write simple scripts and have my computer sync figure out the file stitching once I get home. But unless it’s pretty friendly to writing basic scripts to point those programs in the right direction, I’m pretty decided on just getting a cheap 5khz solution for my home and gym treadmills. I like one-strap-to-rule-them-all, but at this point I think it’ll be better to just use 2 for now and/or not worry about a chest HRM in one of those activities.
    2) Can the F5 rebroadcast the optical HR over bluetooth to say, my PC or certain phone apps? I’d like to overlay my heart rate while streaming video games on twitch, and it’d be nice if I didn’t have to wear anything extra. Otherwise I think I can use an ANT+ dongle but that limits my overlay options slightly and is another thing to buy/take up another USB port, etc.
    3) Is there still a customizable page for Automatic Gradient like on the Fenix 3, and are there any other auto-detect page changes? I recently got randomly recommended your old Automatic Gradient video on YouTube while binge watching, and that feature looks awesome. I think one for walk/run mode would be really useful, as well as possibly different data pages for when I’m doing different strokes at the pool (which also would be nice if only for knowing that the watch is on the same page as me as far as what stroke I’m doing). Honestly I can think of at least one use for almost every metric… would be awesome if you could do it based on say, HR zone, power, or speed as well.

    4) Did you not do a roof-test for the battery life this go-round? I really liked you validating it in your other reviews, and was looking forward to that since the primary reason I plan to shell out for the Fenix 5 (arguably one of the most expensive fitness watches there is right now) is because the official battery specs are fantastic. That’s definitely something I’d like to see validated, although from reading your review it sounds like you’ve been busy as hell testing all 3 versions in such a short time, especially with the travel and sickness. But if you do it later, please let us know.

    Also since it does come out quite soon, about the Suunto Wrist HR:
    5) The 50 hour battery life – what’s the GPS and HR settings in which it achieves that? Just wondering if it’s fair to compare that to the 24hr Fenix 5 spec, or the 75hr UltraTrac spec, or if the sampling is somewhere in the middle of those.
    6) I’ve been hearing that the OHR on the new Suunto is a total step-change (to the point of being able to totally ditch chest straps for all activities – even swimming or crossfit or the like). Have they really hit the holy grail that hard, or is it still an OHR at the end of the day (and we should hang onto our straps)? OR will we just have to wait for your in-depth review of it for you to have enough data to comment on that?

    Lastly, perhaps I’ll see when I get my unit, but I would think that you could do OK in terms of quick release by turning your bands inside-out, attaching one set of bands to your bike mount with tape, and using a loose elastic material (like a couple hair-ties or something) to hold a separate wrist’s set of bands together when you take it off (so the bike and wrist band-sets stay put even without the watch). From videos at least, the quick-release doesn’t seem to be significantly more at risk than a quarter turn in terms of accidentally getting kicked off during the swim, and they seem pretty easy to operate (especially if you have nails). Definitely not as quick or easy as a quarter-turn system, but also do-able even with a case of the ol’ race hands, and probably better than fiddling with the clasp and trying to loop the band into the bike mount. I guess that’s subjective, but that’s what I intend to try during practice for my next race, and during my next race if practice bears fruit.

    Oh and in your Fenix 5 product comparison chart – it still says “potentially future” on Bluetooth speed/cadence, footpod, and power meters rather than “yes.”

    Thanks again for the great review! I look forward to my first watch after nearly a month of waiting and research, as well as to your next post!

    • Michael Coyne

      Oh and by “H10 only works with Polar Flow” I mean for caching swim HR data. On second thought looking at the programs, I could probably write a script but at that point it might be just as bad as making something to do it myself.

      Either way, after a power-nap (I stayed up late waiting for your review lol), I have decided it’s not worth the effort for me. HRM-Tri it is for now.

    • That’s a very good point about quick release – it’s unnecessary to use quarter turn if you can release easily. A standard old school watch mount on the bar would then work just fine.

    • 1) I haven’t tried the H10 exporting stuff yet. But I’d say the suck level will be about the same as other non-compatible devices (since it’s going to mirror that workflow). As a tip, there’s actually a company making a tri-band strap (5Khz, ANT+, BLE). They don’t do offloading. It’s been on my radar to get a review/post out about, as I’ve got one here. Called MiPulse: link to mi-pulse.com – They focus on sports bras, but you can just buy the module if you want.

      2) No, only rebroadcast on ANT+.

      3) Still there, under ‘Run Settings’ > Auto Climb

      4) I actually typically do battery tests after I publish the review, and put them back in about 1-2 weeks later. That’ll be the case here. The reason is honestly pretty simple: I use the watch constantly during the review period, and can’t really afford to leave them on the roof for a few days. With that I’ll dump in some other battery life details. For example the battery burn on the 8hr ride, etc…

      5) It’s just UltraTrac, but with the gryo. It’s incredibly difficult for me to test those, since I’m not out doing a 50hr activity anytime soon. And once you go inside, that nullifies that. And once you stop moving (i.e. a roof test), that nullifies that too.

      6) I’ve included OHR from the new Suunto in the review data if you look at the last week or so, though I didn’t focus on it in this review.

      7) Sensor types: Ahh, good catch, updated.


    • Michael Coyne

      Thanks again Ray, you’re the best!

      That makes sense for the battery life testing. I look forward to the results!

      I didn’t realize the UltraTrac was smart recording like that – I thought it was just a reduced sample rate. I guess that makes it a lot harder to compare apples to apples. Makes sense though.

      I probably will buy that module as my secondary/treadmill compatible one, thanks!

      And to Dave Lusty – I also saw somebody asking below if the Fenix 3 quarter-turn mount was compatible with the Fenix 5x. It might not be due to HR sensor bump and things like that, but it should be the right width for the bands if nothing else. Maybe it would be compatible, or would be compatible with only very minor modification (very minor sanding or something).

    • Webvan

      6. Wow this is not looking good for the Spartan…also does it only have “smart recording” for data ? I was trying to compare actual values and it’s got way less than the F5 and F5 ?

    • The reduced recording rate is an artifact of their export process off their site. It’s super-annoying, and something I brought up to them earlier in the week actually when I visited there. As you can see though, that’s not really the core of the issue in those sets.

      That said, as I noted elsewhere, I want to do some wrist position changes and see if I can get better results. It’s a key reason I didn’t call out those sets in the OHR section, because I want to see if it’s just a ‘me’ thing. After all, my usual advice to people with OHR issues is to adjust positions/etc… So, might as well follow my own advice.

    • Webvan

      Thanks for clarifying and it makes sense for the additional testing.

    • Don

      Can you review the strength training options for cross training days. I’d like to know 1) what is it’s accuracy for TE. 2) can you pre load exercises, sets and reps in a workout than sync via GC the F5. Currently on the iPhone GC it ask, after a Strength session, what event you want to add after you finish and your whipped. (F3 in current use) Why not preprogram this similar to running intervals or a HIIT session that has repeating circuits. I’m looking for F5 analysis.

    • Michael Coyne

      So I know this was a while ago – I actually wound up getting a Forerunner 935 and still haven’t gotten around to getting many of the accessories I want to get for it because I’ve just been taking all the features of the watch itself in.

      I finally got around to biting the bullet with the sports bra triple-transmitter, and they emailed me putting my order on hold to explain that their transmitter needs the right strap to work, just to confirm I only wanted the transmitter since it needs a strap, etc. I found out in that same email that they use the new Suunto Movesense standard (27mm snap spacing as opposed to 45mm spacing), so my straps/shirts with sensor strips and buttons built in wouldn’t work. I was also concerned about whether it uses Suunto’s new strap identifying abilities for DRM and therefore still wouldn’t work with an old strap if I went down to the hardware store and got a couple buttons and some wire and made a compatibility bridge. I thought I saw that Movesense stuff could do that?

      Anyways in the process of that, I started looking again for an ANT+ and 5khz dual option, and found a couple more. I found this one first: link to energympro.com and have one on the way. While the website could use some finishing touches, the guy I contacted to make sure the product actually did all 3 was very helpful and also offered me a $15 refund for the strap since I didn’t need it, as well as said I could send it right back for a refund if it didn’t work or didn’t fit. I’ll report if it works – it’s bulkier than the sports bra option but cheaper.

      Also in writing this I googled one more time and also found this one, which has memory storage: link to accurofit.com

      I don’t know if the memory storage is bluetooth or ANT+ though (if not ANT+ probably useless outside their app), but since it’s only IPX6 and can’t go swimming, it’s not a big game-changer since it can’t replace an HRM-Swim.

      The one from the first link is on it’s way (what can I say, it was cheapest). I was disappointed that the sports bra one at Mi-pulse.com wouldn’t fit in my shirts, but their website is definitely more polished and professional. We’ll see if I get what I paid for from the other one I guess lol.

    • Michael A Coyne

      Well, I finally got my 3-in-1 HRM. I decided to go with the energympro one: link to energympro.com and saved $40 (including shipping prices) compared to the current price of the smart-bra one which uses the new Suunto Move-Sense connectors: link to mi-pulse.com

      So far I’ve used it twice and it works great, and goes to sleep properly, etc. I’ve had some 3rd party transmitters that didn’t go sleep properly which made it super annoying because I had to remove the battery every time, so that’s now an issue I always check first thing.

      So far I haven’t had any issues with it – it just works with all 3 signals properly.

      Also here is a picture to my HRM shirt with the sensor strip built in and the 3-signal transmitter snapped into it. It’s also somewhat breathable with even the sensor strip being fabric unlike most sensor straps I’ve seen), and here is the link to where I got it on amazon: link to amazon.com

  9. Glen Mailer

    Wow, that really is an in-depth review.

    Hope you don’t mind a few little questions:

    * does the fenix 3 QR kit fit the 5X?
    * does swimming affect the recovery time and training load data?
    * is it possible to activate a workout or intervals mid-activity?
    * is there still a limit on how many multi sport activity profiles you can make?


    • good questions. the 5 sport limit is still there BUT there is the REPEAT functionality from the F3. Not even sure if the 935 QR kits fits the 5X 😉 yet. swimming appears to produce recovery time/tl data *IF* a HRM-TRI/SWIm used . However I doubt if it will guestimate from optical hr and I even doubt that the swim HR zones are used (but not sure)

    • Note that you can do freestyle multisport though, which means you can pick from any sports at any time and for as many sports as you like. There’s no limit as far as I can tell in doing it that way. For example, I just tried 8 different sports one after anohter.

  10. Jordi

    Nice, extensive review!

    Do you know if there’s a way of transfering records and personal stats (VO2Max, etc.) from a F3HR to a 5 Series watch?

    • Webvan

      No you have to start from scratch with each new watch.

    • Correct, no transferability.

    • philadrc

      There is a way to transfer the records from one F3 to another F3, so if they’ve not changed the file structure its probably possible? I only have a F3HR so can’t verify.

      The following link suggests RECORDS.FIT exists on both F3 and F5 – so if same format you should be good: link to support.garmin.com

      As always, great review Ray. A small suggestion – you may want to make reference as to where the F5 sits in the two-year cycle of APIs. I got burned buying a F3HR “flagship” for Garmin then to effectively ditch it in under 12 months saying the platform won’t move forward. Bitterness was already high as purchased a 920XT “flagship” for that to be usurped almost instantly!

    • philadrc

      Maybe possible, see the reply one below.

    • John

      Hi Jordi, you can transfer Personal Records as in best 1k, 5k, 10k times etc. This is done by going to the records on the Garmin Connect website and sending the records to your device. I believe you have to sync it using the data cable and Garmin Express. No way to transfer VO2 etc. that I’m aware of and you do have to let the watch learn again.

  11. Janka

    Good read! Big thanks for review!!
    Cant decide – 5s or 5, but looks like 5s it is!

  12. Adam

    Hi Ray,

    Great review, thank you!

    2 quick questions:

    1. What is the size of your wrist? mine is 7″ and I’ve preordered 5s sapphire (black/black). I like smaller watches, but it looks tiny on your brother’s hand (even 5 looks small). Looks much better on your wrsit.

    2. How would you compare the built quality of 5s sapphire compared to 5 sapphire? There are a few suggestions that 5s feels cheaper.

    Thank you!

    • 1) My wrist size is 17cm (or about 6.5″). My brother’s is much large (I didn’t measure his wrist size).

      2) The quality feels nice to me (and The Girl approved of it). I suspect the ‘cheaper’ feeling likely just comes from it being lighter. Yes, it’s smaller – so it’s less heavy. A lot of people (in real life) have made comments about The Girl’s watch and liking it. Then again, I suppose nobody is likely to walk up and say “your watch looks cheap!”.

    • Hugo


      Not relevant for everyone perhaps but if you would happen to have a nickel allergic friend it would be nice to know if any of the Fenix 5 models can actually be worn by people with this allergy.

      I can tell within one minute if I can wear a watch or not (15 to 30 minutes if nickel content is low), obviously Suunto Spartan being all plastic would be great, if it provided half of the functionality of the fenix 5.

      I have Fenix 3 and the metallic part of the case contains a lot of nickel so I use the quick release as isolation for my skin. I am afraid the black colored models of Fenix 5 look to be the same as bad.

      I am wondering about the white with golden back Fenix 5s or particularly the Fenix 5 “silver” color could be any different.

      For comparison iWatch offer this explanation about nickel content:
      “Apple Watch models with a stainless steel, space gray aluminum, or rose gold aluminum case”
      link to support.apple.com

      This leaves nickel allergy sufferers with options like simple aluminum and potentially gold colors, and honestly I have tested on the shop the black one and it does not give out as much nickel, I felt no problems in my one minute test on the shop even when this model is supposed to give out more nickel according to Apple.

      Asking from Garmin support here is their answer:
      “Hello Victor,

      In order to achieve a high level of corrosion resistance, stainless steel is used on the fenix 5. Stainless steel alloys contain small amounts of Nickel. Although the parts comply with EU Nickel Release limit standards for metals in continuous contact with skin, people with Nickel sensitivities or allergies may still have a reaction.

      Unfortunately, I am unable to compare the nickel content of the fenix 5 in comparison to the fenix 3. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

      If you have any additional questions or concerns please let us know.

      Thank you for choosing Garmin,


      Product Support – Outdoor Team”

      Which is not terribly helpful.

      I am pretty sure I am not the only one with this issue.
      If you would put this issue out there maybe it gets some attention from Garmin?
      I can for sure test the various models when they hit the shops and may be able to tell more then about the various case color finishes myself.


    • Ben

      I’m allergic to nickel and have had no reaction.

  13. C Davies

    Thanks for the in-depth review!

    Does the 5/5X have GPS auto-lap functionality? And what you mention about the offroad trails in Spain is disappointing. Are things likely to improve at all on that front with the ability to upgrade the internal base map to something more trail/hiking specific?


    • A) Yes, both have auto lap by distance (not position)
      B) I don’t see it improving. The maps are what they are and honestly we don’t see much shifting there.

    • Paul S.

      When it comes to things like trails, it’s always worth checking OpenStreetMaps for the area in question. The OSM maps for my local area have all of the trails, while both the 24k and 100k Garmin TOPO US maps don’t. The 5X has plenty of room for maps, so there’s no need to rely on the map that comes with it.

    • Zoltan

      Do you have any idea why Garmin has abandoned auto lap by position?
      Triathlon watches like 310XT and 910XT have these features which are great if you exercise on a shorter route running more laps or even on tracks where the new lap recognition by position was always better than that of by distance.

      Intentionally done or just accidently omitted in case of Fenix lineup?

  14. Neil Jones

    I think your wording in the advice for using the f5 during a swim is a bit ambiguous:

    “Always press the start button above water, and then hold it for 2-5 seconds before your first strokes”

    I can see people thinking that holding the start button for 2-5 seconds gives some sort of magical GPS super-lock on

  15. Webvan

    Are you actually able to get HR data from the Polar H7 ? Mine connects ok but no HR data comes through.

    • I was earlier in March. I’ll triple-check again today to see if anything has broke.

    • Walter Guerra


      I have a polar H7 and have the same issues with a Fenix 5s. It connects to the polar but no HR comes. Also, every 10 seconds is disconnects and reconnects again.

      I already removed the battery of the Polar and tried everything I found online.

      BTW, the H7 works perfectly with my phone.

      Any ideas?


  16. Marcus

    Thanks mate!
    Question regarding the Training Load and stress – will they come into the 735XT/920XT/Fenix 3 as well through a software update? Training status, Epoc and training effect on anaerobic/aerobic sounds interesting.

  17. hiker

    Ray, please tell me is it possible during navigating a route via topo-map (using F5X) to pick a random location from the topo-map which is off the route (e.g. summit/lake/sightseeing), then navigate to that location ?

    This feature would make me decide to buy F5X (or not).

    Anyway, very good review but IMHO navigation/routing part could have been more in-depth (gyroscope effect not even mentioned).


    • No, I’m not aware of any way to just zoom around on the map and pick a point and route to it. If there’s something at that point, then you can do so via POI. Or if you know the coordinates, that’s easy too. But a random point on the side of the mountain isn’t possible (again, at least in any way I can figure out).

      The gryoscope effect isn’t something that’s honestly easy to test. Or at least, I can’t think of any way to realistically test/validate it (short of maybe building some sort of continuously moving rig)?

    • hiker

      Hmm. In that case, is it possible to take the coordinates from some random location on the map and save it as POI/saved_location and then later use that POI/saved_location as a target to navigate to ?

      “saved_location” in this context doesn’t refer to my current location but to any random location picked from the map itself.

      That possibility would help me a lot.

      Please answer. Thank you very much!

    • I don’t see a way to enter another location’s coordinates and immediately save that as a ‘Saved Location’.

      However, you can route to a set of coordinates if you know those. And of course you can route to saved locations.

      I’ll ask if I’m missing something though.

    • hiker

      I just found this in F5X online manual:

      “Saving or Navigating to a Location on the Map

      You can select any location on the map. You can save the location or start navigating to it.

      1. From the map, hold MENU.
      2. Select Pan/Zoom.
      Controls and crosshairs appear on the map.
      3. Pan and zoom the map to center the location in the crosshairs.
      4. Hold to select the point indicated by the crosshairs.
      5. If necessary, select a nearby point of interest.
      6. Select an option:
      To start navigating to the location, select Go.
      To view the location on the map, select Map.
      To save the location, select Save.
      To view information about the location, select Review.

      So it seems it is possible to pick a random location off the map itself, save it or start navigating to it!
      Hooooray!! 🙂

      OK, a decision is just made. I’m buying F5X.

      Thank you!

    • rabbit

      Of course you can do it during an active navigation:

      Press menu
      Pan the map to a position that you wanna save
      Long press on the start button
      Choose point you wanna save
      Save location

    • So that’s funny, I just tried a slightly different series of steps that was similar, but didn’t work.

      Noted above is that you start from the ‘Map’ screen – that works in those steps.

      But…if you start from the ‘Navigate’ function it actually doesn’t work. Instead, it shows you a list of things near where you move the cross-hairs too, but then you can’t actually navigate to that. Only..well..just list it. Pressing the button again does nothing. Long pressing does nothing.

      Which, in thinking about it – appears to be a bug. That’s because that that step/procedure is part of the Navigate > Map > Pick a spot, thus, the entire purpose.

      I’ll report the bug accordingly.

    • rabbit

      Yeah, seems o be a bug in the “navigate” app. Never have used this app, because I created and use different apps for my hikes etc…

    • hiker

      Interesting. Thanks for detecting the bug.

  18. Ben Faivre

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for this exhaustive review 🙂
    It looks like the 5X cannot replace an edge 820/1000 on mapping as it doesn’t allow you to enter an address to follow.
    Do you think you van create your own PI and route to it? And any ideas if Garmin is considering something à la Lezyne/Wahoo, as in enter the address in your phone and your watch does the navigatikn?
    I would have loved to ask those questions in the Facebook live stream but I’ll be in bed (3am in Oz land 🙂 )

  19. David E.

    Great review, as always. I will resist commenting on the strength of your conclusions given the seemingly imminent release of the 935. Or maybe I won’t resist. . . 🙂

  20. Rodrigo Valle Teixeira

    Why the heck is the Apple Watch mentioned so much, specially in the final summary?
    The Fenix5, or any other dedicated sports GPS watch, have little to do with “smart watches” like the Apple.

    Just because both have 4 wheels, you can’t compare a pickup truck to a sportscar. Different purposes.

    • If you were asked the same question 1000 times a day every day you’d probably answer it like that too, regardless of how sensible the question is. If you reviewed pickup trucks for a living and people kept asking you to compare it to the latest Ferrari it’s likely you’d include a bit about the Ferrari in each review just to cut the number of questions.
      Ray also understands that search engines will rank him higher with “Fenix 5” and “Apple Watch” on the same page. He’s not daft 🙂

    • “If you were asked the same question 1000 times a day every day you’d probably answer it like that too, regardless of how sensible the question is.”

      I included it precisely because of this. I’ve seriously lost track of how many times people have asked and compared it to the Apple Watch.

      As for mentioning it – it’s actually only mentioned in the summary. I use the word ‘Apple Watch’ 4 times in that section. The review has 14,500 words in it.

    • web1723

      I was actually pleased that Ray added in a bit of color on the AW2. I have found myself in a situation where my trusty old 310XT won’t charge any more, right at the beginning of training for my first triathlon coming at the end of the summer (1/2 IM 4 months away).

      – The fenix 5 has everything I need, lots that I want, but it is $600!!
      – The fenix 3 (non HR) also has what I need and want, but is the $449 price for a 2 year old watch without HRM worth it over the AW2?
      – The AW2 is a great smartwatch and $400 with HRM, allows for tri training (at least for my basic needs), someone possibly can build a true multi-sport app for it, but battery life is a big concern for the tri itself.
      – The 920XT has a great price now, but it is only good, IMO, for training, not as something for out of training mode like the three above.

      Bottom line is I want the AW2, and I’m cost conscience. But with 10 years of history with Garmin, I trust and know how it works. So is the extra $200 justified? I don’t know yet, but I need to figure it out soon 🙂

  21. DerLordBS

    Currently I am using a Polar V800. Initially I was excited by its training load functionality. But sadly I discovered that it shows random results, as it does not reflect my real training stress:
    – I am not a great swimmer. It produces more training stress than the watch things.
    – Skiing and other training is regarded by the watch to produce no stress.
    – When starting my training after an illness, the training feels harder. The watch believes it it the opposite.
    – My indoor training with Zwift is not included in the calculation because the sessions are not imported to Polar.

    Does the Fenix 5 perform better in calculating my traing stress?

    • DerLordBS

      Or asking directly: Is the functionality really better than on the Polar V800?

    • Sorry, was trying to find a swim with the HRM-TRI strap attached. Found one. Within that, it does produce the two TE values separately: link to connect.garmin.com

      Anything with HR data will produce the separated TE values and the recommendations per the Excel files above.

      On the sickness front, my run from Monday was silly. I was clearly sick and my HR’s were threw the roof. The training effect was 3.5/26, and the watch believed it was a Lactate Threshold effort…which, was about right.

      Indoor training are included as long as they’ve got a heart rate sensor, but you won’t get VO2Max estimates without power.

      I just went back to them to see if I can get the OK to publish a 20-page overview paper they sent to me that details how the new metrics work. I’ll note here in the comments if I add it into the review.

  22. Webvan

    “With the lactate threshold feature you do NOT need a heart rate strap”

    This is incorrect, the guided test flashes “Chest HRM Required” when you launch it, at least with the latest v2.40 firmware so it’s hard to miss. Are you maybe running another firmware version ?

  23. JTH

    Thanks for the detailed review. I think it’s clear now what my next watch will be, unless Garmin decide to release a more running focused and hopefully cheaper 920 XT successor with TE 2.0 and BT sensor support.

    One thing I’m interested and not mentioned in the review, did you compare the GPS accuracy of 5S to the bigger models? Having a FR235 it’s actually the smallest version that interests me the most, although I think I could probably get by with the regular 5 as well.

    In the end I’d probably still get pace/distance from Stryd anyway so probably not a major thing. But at least somewhat accurate GPS is always good to have as a reference.

    • JTH

      Oh, and hopefully the IQ datafield issue with Stryd gets solved, otherwise it clearly wouldn’t be worth the upgrade.

    • Forerunner 935 is coming any time now, it’s already on FCC’s website so should be this week or next if Garmin do what they usually do. The feature set isn’t widely known, but it’s a round watch like the Fenix.

    • I didn’t include The Girl’s GPS data in the accuracy section, though she wore the 5S almost exclusively.

      I didn’t see any specific GPS accuracy concerns in her tracks.

    • Webvan

      The only real question about the 935 is whether it has a barometer or not, given that screenshots counting floors it seems it does 😉

    • JTH

      Good to know there aren’t at least any bigger noticeable issues. The FR235 was said to be bad too (fellrnr for example), but I think it’s actually good enough most of the time.

      To me it seems that Garmin use some sort of combination of accelerometer / GPS for distance / pace data so seems that they can get it close enough most of the time even when the track itself is not perfect. This was also noted in the Garmin forum discussions by some. You shouldn’t always just look at the track because it is only part of the data used for final distance calculation.

      You can see this if you extract the raw GPS path and compare distance (in SportTracks 3 for example), it’s usually longer than what is recorded by the watch. With 1s recording this is actually no wonder, because GPS accuracy window in meters, especially in more challenging conditions, is most of the time larger than your running speed in m/s (for average joe it is something closer to 4-3m/s).

      And I’ve seen the rumors about 935 too. Probably won’t upgrade before summer anyway…

  24. Yorick

    Thanks for the review. Is it possible to use a wall outlet to recharge the watch, and if yes at which Voltage/Amp rating for the AC-USB adapter ?

    • Yes, you can use basically any USB port adapter out there. Given USB (the device) controls the power draw, there’s no concern about ‘overage’. But rather, only under-providing power. But the Fenix 5 draws less than 1A, so it’s not an issue (compared to charging something like an iPad).

    • Yorick

      Perfect. Thank you, that’s all I needed to know.

  25. FJ

    Still no optical HR while swimming?

    • Correct. Not at this time.

    • FJ

      Hi Ray

      Does this mean that if your workouts include swimming workouts, those are not taken into account in the new Training Load and Stress metrics unless you wear one of the swimming compatible heart rate straps? (HRM-Swim / HRMTRI)

      If so, that’s a bit of a bummer!

    • Correct.

      Here’s the detail I just got back from FirstBeat on nearly that exact question:

      “All activities from which we have HR, are accounted for Training Load and for Training Status. From runs with speed and rides with power, we get VO2max estimate. VO2max trend calculated from runs/rides with VO2max estimate is used as in Training Status, where the other main parameter is Training Load which is based on load from all activities. We also use VO2max to personalize Training Effect, Training Load, Recovery Time, calories etc.”

      Also, they wish to apologize that the above isn’t a super polished answer. 😉 But I think it nails the question.

    • FJ

      Thanks for clarifying Ray

      I guess I’d have to choose between living without these new fancy metrics or being “the dork with the hr strap” in my local pool…

      and I’m already “the dork in lycra” to my coworkers

    • FJ

      Hi Ray

      Sorry, something just crossed my mind. Is it possible to pair Ant+ sensors when in a swimming workout? I’m wondering if it would be possible to pair up an external Ant+ optical HR monitor, like a Mio Alpha, and have the Fenix 5 record HR in the swim workouts, together with laps/distance/etc… I have never tried it but I understand that if you wear a Mio Alpha next to the watch, the signal is just about strong enough to be read by the watch under water

      I am fully aware that the HR values with an optical sensor under is not entirely accurate, but they don’t have to be. I’m more interested in getting some values for purposes of TRIMP charting and these new training load metrics


    • FJ

      I meant a Mio Link, not a Mio Alpha

    • runner33

      Hi Ray,

      one more question on that topic. Technically, with 24/7 HR measurements, there now is HR data for every MoveIQ event. Are these also taken into account for the new Firstbeat metrics?

      And… thank you for this really extensive review!

    • Ivan

      that is my question too.
      OHR on F5 is disabled for swimming, or there in no possibility to connect any OHR (eg. mio link) in pool swim mode?


    • FJ

      Anybody with a Fenix 5 and a Mio Link in a position to give this a go? For anyone that includes swimming in their routine, the training metrics are effectively useless unless this combo works or they are prepared to wear an HRM Swim (which I’d rather avoid)

    • Student of Life MD


      Likely, there won’t be any optical HR tracking in water anytime in the near future, barring some significant technology changes

      To explain why, conduct a simple experiment. Take an LED light, and shine it on your table. You see one dot of light. That’s what an optical HR uses to determine your pulse rate.

      Now, put a few drops of water on the table, and repeat the process. The light scatters as it strikes the water. To the sensor, it would make your heart rate seem completely erratic as the light reflects and refracts through the water in varying amounts. (This is evidenced when Ray turned on HR monitoring on a Tom Tom a while back during lap swim – he was flying between brady and tachycardic almost second by second.)

      Even with IR which is slightly more accurate than LED, the IR is still partially diffused by water molecules (and the water results in different temperatures as some of the IR energy is absorbed by that moisture) again , resulting in an inconsistent HR

      This also explains why can you start to see erratic readings from an optical HR if you’ve gotten sweaty and don’t wear your watch tight enough. Or too tight. Or you don’t wipe it off before you put it on. Or you use sunscreen, lotion, have too many minerals in your water that stick to your skin, the list is endless.

      Some people will have great luck with Optical HR – IF they’re consistent in how they use it and understand its limitations.

      Some people, no matter how hard they try, will not get good results from optical HR even being consistent with usage.

  26. Richard McDowell

    Fantastic review, as ever.

    Do you think many of the Fenix 5 features will trickle down to the Fenix 3 with software updates?

    I suppose Garmin would miss out on persuading people to upgrade if they were to do so with everything…

    Cheers, Rich

    • Unfortunately I don’t expect any features to trickle down to the Fenix 3 series. The one exception being the Fenix Chronos.

    • philadrc

      I mentioned it in an above reply but F3 is an abandoned product line, this old blog states as much: link to developer.garmin.com

    • Thing is, philadrc, that blog was specifically about Connect IQ 2. Further, it was posted on 15 June last year, and from that date to now, the Fenix 3 received another 5 firmware updates, three of which included updates to Connect IQ. Not having the hardware to handle Connect IQ 2 didn’t mean it was abandoned.

      Not having the hardware to handle the F5 updates, on the other hand, might well mean that now – nine months after that post – the F3 is at the end of the update line. The Chronos hardware appears to be much more like the F5 than the F3; it doesn’t have as much flash memory storage, but it got Connect IQ 2 and its benchmarks are much faster than the F3 and in line with the F5.

  27. Wouter

    Given the HR accuracy- and known feature data of the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, do you see any reason to delay the decision between Fenix 5(s) and that one? The few tracks on OHR included in your review do not seem to back up any advantage of Suunto Valencell-based oHR. In addition the gps accuracy is not phenomenal, it’s missing barometer, custom/interval training, strava segments, 24×7, probably heavier than fenix 5s, and so on.

    Although a Suunto fan, given these things, I do not see a reason to go for Suunto any time soon :-(.
    However, I hope this view is too pessimistic … any other views on that?

    • I don’t at this point.

      But I still want to gather some more data on the Spartan. The reason I didn’t highlight it within the review here (though kept the data there) is I want to dig into a bit why I’m seeing some wonkiness on accuracy there at times. Is it a beta issue (technically it’s still beta)? Is it a wrist placement issue (I’m going to try some different spots – just as I always recommend others to do)? Or is it something else?

      Fwiw – it does get interval training next week. It’s actually kinda cool the way they’ve implemented it. Not as extensive as structured training of course on a Garmin, but on-par with the on-device interval function.

  28. Colin

    Hi Ray,

    have you seen any issues automatically connecting to Wahoo Kickr power? I have to manually connect to mine each time I want to use (is always “Searching” for Kickr no matter what). No issues staying connected once I do so manually, Finds and connects automatically to all my other Ant+ sensors fine. Have tried with both the Kickr Ant+ and Bluetooth smart connections with the same result.



    • The last time I tried the KICKR was February or so, and I didn’t see any issues there. I tried the NEO last night and it connected instantly on one watch, though on another was a 2 minute delay/drop which I believed is a result of the noted Di2 issue.

      Hmm, I’ll try poking at it on a KICKR this afternoon and see if I can repro/report.

  29. Mathieu

    Is it true that only 2 Connect IQ data fields can be used simultaniously in one activity app?

  30. Crispin E.

    Great review as ever Ray. Have you been able to glean whether the gyroscope enhanced UltraTrac is a significant improvement over the UtraTrac from previous Fenix (and other Garmin) watches?

    • I haven’t, largely because I’m not honestly super-sure how to test that (short of going for a 50hr walk).

    • Matthew B.

      Do you think Garmin has tested this extensively in vivo? I can’t imagine their having people do multiple 50 hour + activities.

    • Michael Coyne

      Get a friend (or group of friends) and undergo a giant team relay test where you hand it off?

    • Crispin E.

      Not so much concerned if the mode lasted the full 50 hours advertised, but interested if it’s felt it’s a viable mode with sufficient tracking accuracy for use on longer hikes or MTB trips. I got put off the mode pretty quickly on the F2 and F3 as I found the recorded tracks just too random. I guess this is one for further testing and sharing of experience on the Garmin forums now.

    • Matthew B.

      I guess I’m just not really sure in what situation you’d really need the 50 hours for a “longer hike or MTB trip”. A USB charger can be the size a chapstick and if you aren’t going 50 hours straight, it would be trivial to charge it overnight and have more accurate data.

    • Paul S.

      I’m a little curious as to why people thing a gyroscope will help with tracks. A gyroscope measures the orientation of the watch.

    • TC

      Make the dog work for its living 😉

    • Crispin E.

      He pulls and helps……. when it suits him and in the direction he wants 🙂

    • MikeDozer

      Just find a ultrarunner and lend him the watch for one run 😀

    • If an Ultra runner wishes to come to Paris, they are more than welcome to borrow a Fenix 5 for a weekend to go off and run 50 hours. 😉

    • MW

      The idea is that it is a “smart recording” mode where the watch will detect orientation changes (with the gyroscope) and then measure additional GPS points when it thinks you are going around a corner.

    • Paul S.

      But that doesn’t make much sense. You don’t detect changes in motion (as opposed to orientation) with a gyroscope, you use an accelerometer, and an accelerometer has been part of the Fenix since the 2 (?, whenever they started that “step counting” nonsense). The only thing a gyroscope gives you is a consistent direction. Maybe they can use that to rotate the accelerometer readings into a consistent coordinate system which may improve dead reckoning; possibly trying to use the acceleration of gravity to find the vertical isn’t as precise when the accelerometer is moving around.

    • Alex

      You could have a team share the watch in a relay race. I’ll be running a Ragnar relay this summer which is 200-ish miles split between a team of 6 or 12. I don’t know if they have something similar in Europe though.

  31. Erik Wolla

    About swimming, pool mode: I noticed Garmin has added a gyro sensor to the Fenix 5, it should make the device better at guessing what you are doing in the pool. I have a 920XT, it is quite easy to confuse if I make adjustment to goggles while swimming, or don’t make sharp pushoffs, etc. Do you think the F5 is better than the 920XT?
    Open water mode: I’ve only tried this with my 920XT a few times, and gotten a decent (10% accuracy as per your yardstick) one or two times. It seems if you do crawl is “kinda” works, if you do breast strokes “forget about it”. Again – adding a gryo sensor – should make the F5 more “intelligent” w.r.t. poor GPS reception. And the same question – does the F5 perform better i OW than the 920XT. Any hope for those of us who enjoy breast strokes??

    • I haven’t seen any oddities in the pool. It’s been pretty sharp actually, nailing my swims. Though, I usually have pretty good luck in pool accuracy across devices. I think unconsciously I’ve gotten really good at avoiding things that cause pool accuracy issues.

      Unfortunately, on breast stroke in OW, it’s just not something I’ve done. Sorry!

    • Michael Coyne

      I also use breast stroke, but I doubt it would be much/any good in open water because GPS signal strength drops like a rock under even a few inches of water.

      What I plan to do if I need something that’s more of a rest stroke is to do backstroke. It might not be as restful as breast stroke, but would be much more restful for me than front crawl (I tend to suck at breathing right) whilst still getting a good gps track since my hands would still come out of the water.

      I also like to use elementary backstroke at the pool between sets, which is not one of the 4 recognized indoor strokes. However it’s very similar in motion (albeit upside down) to breast stroke, so if it puts me down for breast stroke for those lengths I’d be fine with that. Otherwise I’ll just have to suck it up and learn front crawl better, but then that’s a big part of why I’m getting a swimming watch anyways.

      Also Ray does Garmin live tracking still work for OW swim if you put your phone in the swim buoy?

      I also like to use elementary backstroke

    • Michael Coyne

      Woops writing on my phone doubled part of the message and cut off another part.

      The other part was me wondering if it can reliably do live tracking and GPS in the short time out of the water, and a HRM transmitter could be on your back (I’ve heard that straps can still pick up heart rate for some people while on their back) if maybe it could pick up heart rate in that short time too if the transmitter was back there. I don’t know if that would work without people writingsmart software to burst the signal instead, but that would be interesting for getting live, reliable HR data if they could get it to work.

      I know you’ve said before that live swim data is kinda “meh” since you can’t do much with it, but as a total failboat when it comes to race day swim pacing, I could REALLY benefit from vibration feedback assuming you could feel it.

      On a similar note I was thinking about getting the Iolite system, but since their kickstarter didn’t meet it’s goal and the only other way to get it is via their website (which looks kinda dead), I’m a bit scared to get one in case the website is dead and just eats my money. Did you ever get a final product to test? Your review of the prototype intrigued me. Would it still be triathlon legal?

    • Brian Tu

      How accurate is the pool distance for length? I’m pretty certain that the pool I swim in is 25m (that’s according to the people who run the gym). I was doing sets of 100m yesterday and I noticed that it would count down before I even got to the end of the pool. I.e. I was maybe 1/4 of the way down and my watch had buzzed saying I had swam my 100m already. This was a workout I wrote into the watch.

  32. Chris

    Plus 1 for the battery life roof test!

    • Yup, they’ll likely go up towards the end of the weekend!

      I’ll wait through today/tomorrow in case have specific questions they want answered that require me to double-check on the devices.

  33. BobV190

    I canceled my preorder for a Black Sapphire 5s after seeing photos of how it looks on people’s wrist. I am not crazy about how the lugs appear to protrude straight from the watch, instead of being angled down as they other watches. This gives the effect (on smaller wrists) of the lugs sticking straight out over the top of the wrist. In the picture in Ray’s review of a woman wearing a 5s, that appears pretty evident.

    I actually think, even though it is larger, the 5 looks better on small wrists due to the lug design.

    I am still on the fence as to whether I will stick with my Apple Watch 2 or maybe get the 5. I think I have crossed the 5s off the list now. My wrist circumference is about 16.5mm or 6.5 inches or so. I have a 38mm AW2 which fits me well.

    • BobV190

      That’s 16.5cm on my wrist size, not 16.5mm.

    • Paul S.

      You can always use both. When I get on the bike this morning (indoors, unfortunately), my Apple Watch (original) will come off. If I were to go hiking today, I might leave my AW on but I’d definitely put my Epix on. An AW, even a 2, can’t do all the things a Fenix can, and vice versa.

  34. Matej

    Is it posible to upload fenix 5 firmware to fenix 3?
    Does eanyone have FW files?
    Thank you.

  35. Travis

    Great Reviews. Seem to be lots of leaks on Web now on the pending Forerunner 935. Question if the Fenix 5 is best Garmin watch yet, is it better that the 935? My credit card need to know so I can choose one!

  36. Robert

    Thanks for the great review! I currently use a Fenix 3HR , in your opinion do the software and optical heart rate improvements justify an upgrade to the Fenix 5?

  37. Patrick Utrecht

    Hi Ray, Nice review as always. You’re probably going to make my wallet unhappy again, but my wrist happy 😉

    Some spelling errors:
    Red is bad, and orange is less bed <- (probably should be bad)
    (sport usage paragraph)

    So overall – I’d say things are pretty good (the best we’ve seen from Garmin’s sensor tech) while running, but a mixed back while cycling <- (I presume back should be bag)
    (HR sensor accuracy paragraph)

    Are you going to include a battery duration test? I'd be curious to see what results you get there, especially since there seems to be a difference between the three models. How long a device lasts without juicing up is really important for me.

    • Thanks!

      Yup, battery rooftop tests coming. I typically do them after the review is published, since I don’t want to take the units out of circulation for a few days otherwise.

  38. Malte

    Ah, thanks Ray, finally your massive review of the Fenix 5/S/X is up!
    What about turn by turn implementation on the 5X? Is it possible to get notifications of upcoming turns? Does it create cue sheets on its own?

    Thank you very much!

    • It pops up turn by turn notifications as you near each point.

      I shot a big long video on a hike showing side by side how the 5/5X work in navigation on a course. I didn’t end up publishing the video as I went on a bit of a rant on how poor mapping was, but that ended up mostly just being a Spain thing.

      I might try and do some strong editing and see if the video is salvageable.

    • Malte

      Thanks for the reply, Ray. Really appreciate it.

      Would love to see *any* video of the 5Xs turn by turn notification capabilities.


    • Patrik

      Have you tried to navigate with OSM or just the included topo map? In general OSM provides pretty detailed map and it would be really interesting to see how fenix 5 x handles toose smaller trails. Supposedly this works wioth fenix 5x :
      link to openmtbmap.org

  39. Christian

    Hi Ray,
    thanks for the great review – I’m just thinking about which color to buy: is the tested Fenix 5
    the slate grey version or the black one?

    Thanks, Christian

  40. murray

    hello Ray, excellent review as always,

    Do you have an insight into the availability of other colour ways and bands etc? i am after a yellow band slate grey

    we are seeing the slate/black fenix 5 pretty much readily available in the uk…amazon says 1st april for the above 🙁

  41. John

    One disappointment: I can’t believe Garmin doesn’t understand the need to be able to charge the watch while wearing it.

  42. TC

    Thanks for the excellent and detailed review!

    Question: can you give a bit more detail about which Training Load & Stress features are not in the 3HR? I understand the 3HR has recovery time and VO2max. What features are ‘5 only’? It’s not clear to me from the text alone, since that also (rightly so) talks about features the 3HR does have.

  43. FJ

    Hi Ray

    For the new Training Load and Stress metrics, do all workouts needs to be recorded with the Fenix? Or could I record cycling workouts on an Edge, upload to GC, and have them taken into account in Training Load & Stress that appears in GC and the watch?

    As usual, thank you for the absolutely fantastic review. Good work!

    • tim

      Also curious here — strongly prefer an Edge on the bike, but because of that fact I’d end up with a useless training load feature!

      I am guessing somewhat similar to the “My Stats” recovery advisor now… if I record my Rides with the Edge and Run / Swim with he F3 the Recovery Advisor is a bit of a mess.

    • Brett

      Same question here!

    • Mike

      Same question here.

      I’ve now had my Fenix 5 delivered and can confirm my activities on my Edge 530 are not being synced from app onto watch for the stats.

    • Mike

      Sorry typo 520 not 530?

  44. Luke

    Hi Ray

    Re fenix 5 varia radar support – can you configure it to vibrate if a car is coming at speed behind ou? So like the edge series beeps but a vibrate on ththe wrist to alert you…?

  45. Scott

    Great in-depth review… now hopefully my pre-order will ship soon.

  46. Andrew

    Hi Ray

    2 Quick questions – on the FirstBeat training dynamics – do you need to be wearing the device 24/7 for these to give you accurate training state data (i.e. does it rely on resting/ 24/7 HR data)?

    and does the Fenix5 need to be used as your only device for recording activities for these to work properly? or is this a backend/ app based process where if I have bike data from say a 820, this could be incorporated into the calculations via the app? It seems if its the former, its perhaps not as useful for end users, particularly more serious triathletes who may well have alternative biking devices.

  47. James

    Hi Ray,

    Great review as ever 🙂 One question from me.. in image 78 (Garmin Connect screen of Southbank running) you’ve got loads of graphs on there. Is it the same as the Fenix 3 where you need the chest strap for these or are there now more running dynamics in the watch itself? They look like they have the ‘IQ’ next to them so are they perhaps 3rd party apps that are writing the data? Sorry if you’ve covered it elsewhere.

    Thanks, James.

    • Correct, those metrics with the ‘IQ’ come from Garmin Connect IQ apps. In this case, they came from the Stryd Garmin Connect IQ Data Field, connected to a Stryd pod.

  48. EternalFury

    Now, the question becomes: Will this be the best watch for Running or should I wait to see what the 935 and 635 can do? Or should I wait to see what Polar comes up with next?

    • David

      Same situation here. Tempting to buy this watch, but its expensive and overkill for my needs.
      I’m waiting untill we know more on the polar V800next, the suunto spartan trainer & the new Garmin FR245.
      Asuming the new FR245 = FR635 – some advanced running dynamics and that the new FR635 = FR935 minus the multisport option. So end of year I hope all is know about these watches

  49. Markus

    Hi, i got the fenix 5 for a week now – i did only 2 Workouts – no running and no cycling -> only strength training.
    I did the HRV Stress test every morning – and after 4 days i got a vo2 max number ?

    Wherefrom does this number come ?`From HRV Stress test or from training ?
    Log HRV was on enabled.

    Bests Markus

  50. Jason Titus

    I have a 920 now and have had a lot of dropout problems with my Stages power meter. It sounds like it is due to a combination of Stages and Garmin watch. I say that because my Garmin head unit seems to record the Stages power just fine, and my Powertap hub doesn’t have any issues with my 920 (and lots of other Garmin watch owners have posted about the same problem).

    My questions is: if I upgraded to the F5, would I still experience the same issue with Stages? Has anyone used them together without the drops? I assume I’d continue to use ant+ but could I use bluetooth if that doesn’t work (I think the answer is “no” but I’m not sure). At least that would be another option if the problem persists.

    Thanks for any information you can provide.


    • It’s hard to say. Most of the Stages dropout issues tend to be Stages related. Assuming you’ve updated to the April 2016+ firmware on the Stages, which does help considerably.

      That said, I’ve got some Stages testing set to start in about a week, so it’ll be on my radar….

    • Ali N

      Hi, Ray – you said you were doing to do more Stages testing a while back 🙂 Any update on the Stages dropout issue with the Fenix 5s? The Stages data I get from the the F5s Ant+ combo is useless since there’s so little of it.

      I understand that no one power meter is right for all people, but are there any other power meters that give the Fenix 5s that kind of dropout trouble, so I’ll know what to avoid? I’m ready to go shopping (and to sell the Stages!) since I get no useful bike data form the Stages/F5s combo during a triathlon. While the Garmin 1000 picks it up just fine, I’d like to have the Multisport data all work after a race.

      Thanks for all the good info!!

    • I’ve done a bit more, but not a ton (just a case of which bikes I’m using). I haven’t seen Fenix 5 (non-S) issues. I haven’t tested Stages with the S I don’t think.

      I’m starting to test the Power2Max NG units, and did see some oddities on a ride a week or two ago with the F5 via ANT+ (BLE was fine), but I need to dig into that more to see if that was a legit issue, or just a first-ride gone wrong type issue. On the plate for tomorrow.

    • Paul

      Was your Stages testing via Bluetooth Smart or ANT+? I have a two Stages powermeters and get drop out even with an Edge 820 on a road bike mount. These dropouts seem to be random and happens occasionally. I get almost never data on my Fenix3. I have seen when the 820 drops data (no cadence nor power) the phone pairs just fine with the Stages via Bluetooth Smart showing data.
      Thanks for the review.

    • Stages with ANT+. Others who had ANT+ issues with the Fenix 5 series have had better luck on BLE.

  51. Paul

    Great review!

    I have a Fenix 3 and use it for navigating courses. But would be great to have a map showing as well.

    If I did buy the 5X I’d also look to downloading some Garmin maps ( UK Ordinance Survey 1:25000 type maps ).

    The thing I’m interested in is using the Garmin 5X maps for navigating during a very much off road hike ( open moorland, hills and mountains ).

    There’s a lot of info about the 5X and turn by turn navigating on roads.

    But how good is it for setting up a course via the computer, and then following that on the map? Does it insist on turn by turn instructions and forcing you to stay on a road?

  52. Jeff K

    I like my Fenix3 overall, and I see some definite improvements with the 5, but I don’t see enough here to make we want to drop 600+ on a new watch. Ray, how close is the industry to wireless charging? I would love to just drop the watch on a pad at night and have it fully charged in the morning.

    • We’ve seen portions of the industry go wireless charging, but not any of the endurance ones. I wonder if at times simply because having a port makes troubleshooting/support a heck of a lot easier than dealing with one more layer of something to troubleshoot when things go horribly wrong.

      I’ll poke around at some upcoming events, and see if I can get a more behind the scenes answer…

  53. Peter

    Hi ray,

    Thank for the wonderful and detailed review.

    Am still doubting between the 5 and the 5X

    Can i ask what your wrist circumference is?

    so I can get a bit more insight of how the both watches will look on my wrist

  54. Håkon Foss Liverud

    Hi. Is the Fenix 5 on most of the pictures you have used under “The Basics” and “Sport Usage” (for example link to media.dcrainmaker.com) a black bezel version or slate gray bezel version?

    • gijom

      You can differentiate the models by checking if the triangle on top is red and if the top right button comes with a red stripe. If it does not, it’s a black Saphire.

  55. Brad Borgald

    A question about training load & stress. The watch combines your running&cycling workouts if you use the watch for all activities? What if you only run with the watch and use a different device for cycling, aka an edge. Is all the calculation on device, or will it sync any data back from my Edge 520 to give me a combined score? Can I see a combined score on Garmin connect or is this a device only feature and only available on fenix5 platform?

    • Ivan

      That’s my question too. What if I use 520 and fenix 5 at the same tame – will this duplicate my workouts, efforts on Connect (also on Strava, Training peaks…).

      And, yes, as usual – great review!

    • Paul S.

      Right now, yes. Sync two devices, get two activities, although they aren’t always passed on to Strava etc. (or maybe they are and Strava handles it). Simplest thing to do in that case is to prevent one of the devices from syncing.

  56. EZ Rider

    Great review as always, I’m anxiously waiting for my 5S being sent out by Clevertraining Europe.

    I understand all of Garmin’s indications on battery life are with OHR on. I guess using a chest strap should avoid the OHR battery draw – has Garmin given any indication what impact this would have on battery life?
    For me personally I would rather prefer to keep 1s GPS recording instead of Ultratrac also on longer activities and use a chest strap to get some additional battery time, if this actually works.

  57. Matt

    Hi Ray,

    Great review (as always). Very impressed that they can get the size of the 5S down to that of the 735xt. I eventually replaced my Fenix 3 with the 735xt because the former was just to bulky for training (for me).

    My question is in regards to the whole training load/training effect/First Beat analytics. Is this system getting to the point (once it adds the ability to graph the metrics over time) where it is a suitable replacement for tracking those comparable metrics in a software package such as Training Peaks. I never had much luck correlating Performance Condition, Training Effect, etc on previous watches with my actual conditions (and the VO2 max always seems wrong), but it seems from your review that the accuracy is improving substantially. I’ve used TP long enough (with a coach) to where the training load numbers correlate pretty well with how I’m feeling, but curious whether Garmin will ultimately provide a viable alternative.


  58. Craig

    Hi Ray,

    Amazing review as always. Any shots of the 5 or 5x with a leather strap? I’m trying to see if the watch can be dressed up enough to wear to work.

  59. NJ


    Awesome review, as always. Two questions:

    1. Is there any way to add heart rate to the watch face? If not, is this something that could be requested?

    2. Has Garmin ever considered adding a place to add your daily weight to the watch, that would then sync with GC the same as your workouts would? Seems like a simple field, and since my watch is always on me it would be much more effective to enter my weight into my watch than it is to enter it into the GC app.

    Thanks again!

    • David

      1) You can certainly do that with a 3rd party watch face via the Garmin’s Connect IQ App. I’m currently using the ActiFace watch face which and added HR to one of the custom data fields on my Fenix 3 HR.

    • NJ

      Thanks David! Didn’t realize those were available…checking them out as I type!

  60. Martin

    My big issue with the 3HR is that my heart rate is generally high at rest (~70) so the watch samples HR infrequently and always thinks I am exercising no matter what by resting HR or activity really is – sometimes it can report 4000 calories in a day with little exercise. Do you know if the new HR sampling will correct this and give me an accurate basal metabolic rate?

  61. Markle

    Does this one actually stay connected to Android? I have a Fenix 3 and a Pixel and the Bluetooth stays connected for a couple hours and then disconnects and the only way to reconnect it to restart both the phone and Fenix 3. No way I’d buy a non wifi watch from Garmin unless I knew that was flawless. My Fenix three is worthless as a smartwatch.

    • tmitch

      I had similar issue with my fenix 2. The bluetooth reliability was horrible. I was connecting it to an iphone. Half the time the app would freeze and not transfer data and the other half the watch would freeze. The experience really soured my faith in garmin. It was a big reason why I ended up going with an elemnt instead of a 520 for my bike computer. Ray have did you experience any issues with connecting and transferring data through a bluetooth connection?

    • Darren

      My Forerunner 220 has similar issue. Every couple weeks (or maybe it’s every time Garmin Connect updates) I have a heckuva time getting my activities to sync over Bluetooth.

    • Bill

      This is a Pixel issue. I have the same phone and same problem with multiple BT devices outside the Garmin products. Google did say they had a fix coming out soon though.

    • Kyle

      I have a Pixel and I havent had one disconnect with my 5X. I also have not had any problems at all with BT connections on any devices with the Pixel

    • philadrc

      /The/ #1 issues with the F3HR for me. Once it loses its BT connection after about a week it destroys the watch battery life trying to connect. Easily lose 50% in half a day. Had this with 2 x F3HRs to both a Sony Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Edge 7.

      Getting it working again is not simple either, sometimes require multi reboots of both devices.

    • philadrc

      As you say, worthless as a smart watch.

    • Markle

      It’s interesting because my pixel has no trouble with bt connectivity with any other device

    • Interesting. I have a Moto X 2nd gen, and the connection with my F3 does drop a couple of times a week, but restarting just GCM is enough to restore it. Irritating, but definitely not in the ‘worthless as a smartwatch’ zone.
      What version of Android are you folks running? I see reports of people having a very bad time with 7.

    • Michael Coyne

      Is the difference possibly that people are closing Garmin Connect Mobile vs not closing it? My understanding is that if you close Garmin Connect Mobile, it will lose the connection rather than running in the background by default. While super annoying to those of us who tend to always close everything or use the “close all” button now on many Android phones, if that’s the only difference it also makes the solution pretty simple…

    • Nedim

      I have a Pixel XL and 735XT. I mostly fixed the issues with these three steps

      1) “Upgrade” connection in Garmin Connect.
      Garmin uses its BT protocol by default (!???) and it simply sucks. Once you “upgrade” connection, you are using the native phone BT connection and Garmin connect plugs into it, as it should. This is 80% of the fix.

      2) Download “Reconnect Garmin Watch” from the Play store
      link to play.google.com

      Set it to reconnect bluetooth periodically — I found that 90min is a good balance. It also checks that Garmin Connect is running in the background. I found this to be a bigger issue, so…

      3) Disable battery optimization for Garmin Connect. This will prevent Doze to slow it down too much. It probably has to do with how Garmin has programmed the app (see #1).

      Still, once in a while I get a disconnect. Interestingly, once a disconnect happens, it keeps coming back in series. If it happens, go initiate a manual sync on the watch. This somehow “wakes up” the watch and everything is fine for a while.

      I have experimented with this and I have a >feeling< that the BT on the watch goes into a slumber and needs a kick/reconnect once in a while. But I really don't know, since the three steps have pretty much solved the issue and it does not happen often enough for me to experiment with it anymore.

    • philadrc

      Running 6.0.1 currently on a Samsung Edge 7. I know 3 others with Fenix (HR + nonHR) and we’ve all had to turn BT off, it destroys battery life when it fails. Thats across iPhone, HTC, 3x Sonys + Samsung. At least.

      I say worthless as a smart watch as by disabling BT all the notifications go, weather widgets go etc.

      The madness is there seems to be no logic to bring it back. I’ve tried (what I think is) every sequence including having both watch and phone off then powering up – sometimes that does not bring it back!

      If this could be fixed I’d forgive its other bugs (and there have been many) but having a watch that can be 100% charged in the morning then drop 50% in a day is not acceptable. If I wanted that i’d have bought an Apple Watch!

      I’ve been with Garmin since the 201. Had 305, 620, 920xt and not F3HR. As the complexity of the devices has increased so have the issues. Either that or they simply have too many models now and resource spread too thin.

    • Choon Boon

      Hey Markle, I’ve gotten my Fenix 5(non-sapp) for about 5 days so far, and have no issues with the bluetooth connectivity so far. Only dropouts so far happens when i leave my phone in the locker while i head to the shower!

    • John

      That was a Pixel & Pixel XL issue, and they say they have recently fixed it. MY F3 never had any problems with my S6 or Note 7. Man I miss my Note 7.

    • Ted W

      @John. Man of Man do i miss my Note 7. For some reason, my S7 edge just seem like crap compared. I’m practically ready to brush the dust off my Note3.

    • Yannlux

      How do you update?
      I followed the instructions here link to support.garmin.com

      But couldnt get to the screen they mention, only to delete or sync the device.

  62. Edward Ng

    Is this able to display running power as you run with Stryd (for pacing), or is it currently only capable of recording it for post-run analysis?


  63. Greg

    When connected to Garmin Varia Radar, any chance any of these watches vibrate when cars are coming? I’m hard of hearing and can’t hear the Edge 820 beeps for notifying me. Thanks Ray!

    • Luke

      Greg – My question too. I think we got lost in the wash…

      Ray – can you let us know if the fenix 5 can be set to vibrate for when cars are approaching using the varia radar?

  64. Darren

    I would absolutely buy the 5 or 5x….if it had onboard music storage. As it stands I’m left trying to decide on whether to sit pat with my 4-year-old Forerunner 220 with a deteriorating battery and armband, a Polar M600 or TomTom watch that is just too ugly to wear all day, a New Balance watch that sounds like a total a mess or switch to an iPhone and live with battery and tracking compromises for an Apple Watch.

    At $700, even with the features and looks, I can’t get behind a running watch that doesn’t let me leave my phone behind when I go out for intervals. I really don’t get why Garmin still doesn’t offer music storage when it’s a feature that all of the major players (save Suunto) rolled out months or years ago.

    • Bill

      I think they were talking future devices would have this option. One thing to keep in mind the 5x has a lot of storage so it’s not impossible that music storage comes to that device in a future update. Pure speculation on my part for the 5x but I’m pretty sure some future devices will have music storage.

    • Michael Coyne

      I thought that the bluetooth chip in the Fenix 5 wasn’t capable of music, since music generally requires legacy bluetooth support (3.0 and lower)

    • Darren

      I’m hoping that the Forerunner 240/45 will have it — or that it will come in the form of an update to the Fenix line. I really like the form factor and stat tracking of recent Garmin watches, I just wish that they would get with the times as far as music goes.

  65. Kipp

    Curious, has anyone used the Golf functionality on the Fenix 5? If so, is functionality similar to the Approach X40? Other than needing to load courses from smartphone for F5, whereas the X40 has 40K courses preloaded.
    Ray – thanks for the excellent review!

  66. John

    Thanks for another outstanding in depth review!

    Do you know if they have plans to add additional watch bands for the 5S outside of what they currently show? I am specifically interested in the granite blue color that is available for the 5.

  67. James

    Thanks for the great write up Ray! It looks like you got a nice scratches on the bezel on the 5 – is the black painted version similar to the Fenix 3 which seemed to flake off/scratch easier?

  68. Simon.noz

    Brilliant review, probably the most anticipated for a while. Going to be interesting to analyse the comments over the next few months, then make an informed decision over the 3 training watches I am considering.
    Keep the good work up Ray.

  69. Sparts

    Nice review DC. Thorough as per usual 🙂

    So, to summarise – if you want a market leading GPS accuracy, immense battery life, and all the useful functions you could want, upgrade and buy a Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. 😉

  70. Erik D

    Is there any reason to use a food pod with Fenix 5? Or will it automatically detect cadence and treadmill running speed with it’s internal accelerometer? If so, is the accuracy on par with the foot pod?

  71. To solve quick release (and lack of optical hr) issue, any chance Garmin develops a Wahoo Reflkt like bike computer that is basically just a shell displaying data from the watch? Could a third party make something like that?

  72. flanker

    Great review Ray. I’m trying to stay with the position that my 3HR is plenty good enough and there’s no need to buy a 5X. If you could find the battery life is no better that would be helpful 🙂

    Couple of quick comments re navigation…

    When you say “Within the ‘map’ view (on all Fenix models), you can use the upper right button to iterate between three different zoom/pan functions. See those three tiny circles in the upper right corner?” do you mean on all Fenix *5* models, not all Fenix models, as on my 3HR all it will do is stop the activity?

    Also, there seems to be the perception that the turn-by-turn navigation is new to the 5? That’s available on the 3HR. Is the difference that the 5 generates it automatically from a standard GPX whereas the 3 required the turn alerts embedded into the GPX data?

    • Tomas

      I can echo the point about turn-by-turn navigation. I’ve been happily running with turn-by-turn navigation on my 920xt for a couple of years now. Slightly tedious to get the .TCX file setup with waypoints and symbols for turning left/right, but it works a dream when done manually.

    • Joe

      I have this question, too. Does the 5 auto-compute the alerts or was there an update to Garmin Connect that it is now including them (which could make it available on the 3HR as well)? I haven’t tried to set up any navigation on my 3HR in a very long time because it was simply too tedious.

    • Drew

      My 3HR gave me turn alerts on streets but not on trails. This is not directly a function of the watch but Garmin Connect generating hidden waypoints from map metadata which are then used by the watch. I personally prefer to simply follow the breadcrumb trail which I check periodically (I don’t listen to music and zone out). Much of my running is off road where Garmin Connect doesn’t support turn alerts.

  73. Edward Pilatowicz

    hey ray,
    thanks for another great review.

    i have a 5x on pre-order from rei because i’m hoping that it’s mapping capabilities will be able to supplant my Oregon 650 usage. today i normally create tracks (not routes) in Garmin Basecamp and upload them to my Oregon 650. then when i’m out hiking i can overlay those tracks on topo maps and check them occasionally to make sure i’m heading in the generally correct direction. i don’t actually use the routing feature since i’m usually not on a specific trail and i don’t want the device nagging me to get back on the track.

    so my questions are:
    – can i upload tracks created via basecamp to the 5x?
    – can i view tracks overlayed on topo maps while doing an activity (without actively routing those tracks)?


    • Kyle

      I’ve got my 5x and have transferred topo 24k maps to the watch and also routes. Its very easy to do in basecamp. I haven’t had the chance yet to see if tracks are overlayed when not using them yet.

  74. Phil S

    Thanks Ray
    Great review as ever.
    A few Questions.
    1) How good is the Strava Live Segment feature e.g. can it track multiple segments like ELEMNT unlike Edge 520?
    Does it do all the basic activity tracker stuff well e.g count steps, identify sleep etc.

    Probably going to ditch my Vivoactive HR and use Fenix 5 as my 24/7 activity tracker. Any reason not to do this other than size?



  75. Mark I.

    You mentioned brightness compared to the Fenix 3 being unchanged. I own the Forerunner 235. Is the Fenix series brighter than the 235?

  76. I really like how you used a highlighter to point out the graph segments you were talking about. Can you keep doing that? That was really helpful!

  77. Nick

    I have a couple questions about the Fenix 5. I notice that you rate the Fenix 3 HR at 50 hours battery life with optical HR off. What can you estimate the Fenix 5 at with HR off?

    Also, can you comment on the bezel of the 3 HR vs. the 5? The bezel on the 3 HR looks deeper which, to me, equates to it being a little more protected from impact.

    Thank you.

  78. Greg

    Thanks for indepth review Ray. Quick question about lactate threshold feature. Does it require garmin chest strap or something like scosche optical will do the trick? Thanks so much!

    • Any ANT+ HR sensor will work. Technically it won’t know the difference between the two (or, it doesn’t care to know). Underlying though you may see variability with HRV data from an optical HR sensor, since it’s not super accurate for the HRV/RR pieces. More of a guesstimate.

  79. Paul S.

    Is the “display one altitude on the watch face, record a different one into the FIT file” bug still there?

  80. gingerneil

    I can only imagine that the comments section will soon be MASSIVE… so here’s another question to add to the mix – I cant see an answer so far.
    You say that music controls can be added as a data screen. This isn’t currently the case with the F3 – where instead you have to shortcut to the widgets and go from there. Whilst that’s not a huge improvement, it is notable. Do you think this could make it to the F3, or someone may develop a data screen to enable it in CIQ ? Or does it need hardware/firmware support that just isnt there in the F3 ?

  81. JR

    I’ve been using the 5s for a few days now, and I’m really surprised at how much more I enjoy it than the 3hr. For one thing, it’s honestly the first sports watch I’ve ever had that actually looks decent. Everything else is just varying degrees of ugly. I’m actually tempted to get a leather band for daytime wear (there’s no 20mm Garmin leather band, but it looks like Android bands will work) and just sell my Omega.

    It’s also much, much faster and more responsive. The display is still fairly low contrast, but it’s significantly sharper, and the fonts have all been tweaked for better readability.

    There are also a few things that seem better, but might just be my perception. The bluetooth implementation seems more stable and reliable. I never have to tell the watch to sync; it just does it. I haven’t had to re-pair it, which I was always having to do with the 3hr. Also, the vibrations seems stronger. I use my watch as an alarm so I don’t wake my wife, but I did occasionally sleep through it with the 3hr. Not likely with the 5s.

    If anyone wants a 3hr, it’ll be up on ebay shortly.

  82. Stan

    I think it is disingenuous to compare Fenix 5 GPS accuracy to Spartan Ultra which is known to have GPS accuracy issues which Suunto is desperately trying to fix.

    Many trail and ultra runners who might consider Fenix 5 are Ambit3 users so that is what you should have compared F5 to.

    There is already a long F5 Accuracy thread on Garmin Forums and so far the general sentiment seems to be that F5 GPS Accuracy is OK at best.

    • I actually compared the Fenix 5 to numerous devices in the tables: Fenix 3, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR, Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt, Garmin Edge 520, Edge 1000, Edge 820, FR735XT.

    • Drew

      I enjoy your reviews but your GPS assessments lack rigour.

      Garmin devices are really poor / unusable. You have to use Stryde. £500 watch then a £200 foot pod! Just get an old ambit 3 or if nav is not important an M430.

      link to fellrnr.com

    • If you think that fellrnr is anything but a wild guess about GPS “accuracy” then you clearly don’t understand how GPS works at all. His methodology is questionable at best.

      I think we get you don’t like the Fenix 5 but you oddly keep posting about it.

    • Drew

      I’m a medical doc and software engineer and have a reasonable understanding of global positioning systems. I understand the concepts of accuracy and precision. You sound a bit Trumpy – preferring to attempt to undermine the credibility of an opposing viewpoint rather than provide a rational counter-argument.

    • There is no “them and us” – fellrnr when originally reviewing the GPS on the Fenix 5 used Ultratrac Mode so hard to take him seriously. GPS accuracy relies on lots of factors so testing one watch on one route with different atmospheric conditions is hardly scientific.

      I’m also grown up enough to understand that just because Ray says the GPS is ok that not everybody will have a good unit but common sense dictates that purely on the numbers sold the GPS on the vast majority of watches works just fine.

    • Drew

      You are essentially saying there is no practical way to measure GPS accuracy and precision in real use but our gut impression (or DCs) is more valid. That sound like faith and you have every right to that. I am a scientist.

    • Lars

      Drew, as a scientist you should know that neither DCRs nor fellrnrs concept of “measurement” are flawless. For a scientific measurement you should provide repeatability and reproducibility for true precision – and that’s nearly impossible.
      For repeatability alone you have to make “all efforts to keep conditions constant*” – how do you do that with changing satellite positions and weather conditions? But I acknowledge that fellrnr is trying to achieve this with running the same track again and again. On the other hand DCRs approach eliminates largely the influence of weather conditions and satellites positions due to parallel measurement.
      For reproducibility you need “the same measurement process among different instruments and operators, and over longer time periods*”. So many people would have to run fellrnrs process on his track to provide reproducibility.
      And even then you just have a measurement for different watches on this specific track, so you have procudes more reference track with different watches and different people.
      You see, there’s actually no (practical) way to measure GPS accuracy. The difference is that DCR doesn’t claim that he provides scientific measurements – while fellrnr does.
      *All quotes from the Wikipedia entry for “Accuracy and Precision”, the link is also provided by Fellrnr.

    • I agree with you, Lars. In addition, rigorous testing would require multiple samples of each device to control for manufacturing variation and you would have to validate each firmware revision.

    • “fellrnr when originally reviewing the GPS on the Fenix 5 used Ultratrac Mode”

      This is the most important, full-stop.

      When someone uses UltraTrac or Smart Recording (as was done in those tests), and then tries to do any sort of analysis on it, it’s junk-in, junk-out. Those modes reduce the recording rate, compared to the standard 1-second rate I use. In a best case scenario, it’s every 3-7 seconds. UltraTrac is upwards of a short sample per minute. You simply can’t do statistical analysis with 1/30th the data points of anything.

    • Drew

      As a scientist I know that no measurement is flawless – quantum theory tells us that. At a classical physical scale we do not always have the luxury of constancy in conditions other than the one under investigation and yet conclusions can still be inferred based on statistical analysis. A good example is the measuring of strains on a suspension bridge by applying a known perturbating force with a known period – the short term much larger effect of traffic is virtually eliminated as it is relatively random and the sampling period is long. The chance of a significantly smaller spread of values detected by feller for some devices is so highly unlikely to occur by chance we should discount this. Of course all the GPS watches are OK – depends on your needs. Trail running in the UK may require great precision to avoid missing a track and in my experience Garmin watches aren’t really up to this whereas Suunto and Polar are. Unreliable instantaneous pace may be an important issue for some. Getting rid of the longer GPS antenna for marketing reasons has an impact on performance which may or may not be important to an individual. Let’s not pretend there is none.

    • Drew

      If using a different sampling rate then this would be like comparing chalk and cheese. I dont see this stated in his article. He is very clear however about the impact of sampling rate on accuracy. Is this something you have learned from direct communication?
      If not please reference his statement on sampling rate used throughout the study. I have asked him to respond.

    • His use of smart recording is stated explicitly in his 5X review.

      Despite what he believes, there’s overwhelming evidence that when you record 1/8th the number of data points and then compare it to something with 8x the data points with advanced statistical analysis, you’re going to get issues. Everyone is in super clear agreement on this.

    • Drew

      He uses 1s sample rate, not ultrtrac which is very different. He does however use smart recording. I am unsure why he chose this as without knowledge of the algorithm comparison would be I think impossible. Shame as otherwise seemed a reasonable approach. I am waiting for a response. He may need to get out and run a few more miles.

    • Gnome

      Actually he did compare smart recording with 1-second recording for the fenix 5. And the differences was not statistically significant.

    • Drew

      I know and probably the conclusions are OK but…
      If a set of data A is not significantly different to B, and B is NSD to C you cannot assume A is NSD to C. Unfortunately I have to agree that this weakens the evidence though I suspect the conclusions are valid.

    • Again, the simple fact is using smart recording for additional statistical analysis is not valid. You’re missing 75%+ of the data points you need for that analysis. They just don’t exist, they aren’t recorded in the file. End of conversation.

      You can use smart recording if all you care about is total distance lack (but not track location), because the total track length is accounting for since GPS still samples at the same rate. All smart recording does is take up a bit more space (of which there’s plenty). There’s no logical reason to ever use smart recording (which is why none of Garmin’s competitors have or do anything like it). And in fact why Garmin themselves has started to slowly shift away from it.

    • Gnome

      DCRM, I absolutely agree that he should have used 1 sec./recording for the garmin devices to make sure the testing conditions where more equal for all devices. However it may not even matter, as he did compare the 1 sec. recording with smart recording using the same method as before and found no difference.

      From his site:
      Device / Accuracy / Trueness / Precision / Repeatability
      F5X 4.30 Smart Recording / 5.6 / 6.9 / 4.5 / 6.8
      F5X 4.30 1 Second Rec. / 5.3 / 7.1 / 4.0 / 6.6

      As you see the 1 sec. recording did little to improve the accuracy over smart recording.

      Also the smart recording function is designed to reduce the memory used without compromising accuracy. As stated on the garmin website:
      “Smart Recording records key points where the fitness device changes direction, speed, heart rate or elevation. This recording type allows the user extended recording time given that it is recording less track points, thus taking up less memory. It is important to note that Smart Recording does not affect the performance of an activity as it pertains to the data being recorded such as pace and distance or heart rate. Smart Recording only affects the data that is written to the file for storage on the device and on Garmin Connect by removing data points that are essentially redundant.”
      link to support.garmin.com

      So its reasonable to believe that the data he got is presentable for the garmin products. And that GPS of garmin devices the least accurate than compared to the other devices he tested.

    • The challenge with those accuracy/trueness/etc metrics is there’s no visible data to back them up. Meaning, he doesn’t share the files so we can decide for ourselves. We’re left to this game of assuming that those terms he’s specified mean anything in the real world. It’s really been my issue all along. Everything is abstracted from the actual trail/track, with no context for how far things are actually off the trail. Are they 1 meter? Or 10 meters?

      Said differently – merely saying “smart recording doesn’t matter”, doesn’t make it true (especially since even Garmin themselves would say it does matter).

      Note on Garmin’s explanation they are talking for non-track metrics, not the track itself. And like most marketing things, it doesn’t actually hold water. There are countless examples in virtually every one of my reviews where a device only offers smart recording, of it cutting corners/etc.. on the track (even if distance is perfect).

    • Gnome

      As for the smart recording versus 1 second recording you need to test that yourself to prove it. I don’t doubt hes methods versus gut your feeling Ray.

      The actually distance covered versus the registered distance from the GPS, that is what he tested here, right? The data points may be off the trail as you say, but then the distance results will probably be off too.

      Your suggested method of measuring the distance from the datapoint to the actual trial may be wrong because you don’t know where on the trial you actually where in that moment the datapoint was recorded. If you are going to test how far off each datapoint is away from your real position you would need to know where on the trial you actually where for the time each datapoint was recorded, for each second. And you would have to a repeat that hundreds of times over in different conditions to get a result that is valid. That would be an almost impossible task I imagine.

    • Drew

      Hi DC. I am sorry but I disagree. It is not true that one is unable to compare samples of different sizes and this is indeed done routinely in the meta-analysis of clinical trials. You have to take this into account and increase confidence intervals accordingly making it harder to demonstrate a statistically significant difference. The methodology would need to be disclosed to assess validity. I have an additional concern about treating the sample sets as unrelated ordered pairs of numbers. This may be true but should not be assumed to be so. The addition of this unnecessary complexity is a really strange decision by Fellrnr. Why?

    • Gnome – RE: Data points vs total distance

      Nope, not the way it works. See, in Smart Recording the GPS isn’t reduced from a sampling standpoint – so it actually accumulates distance semi-properly. Rather, the RECORDED track points are reduced to save space. Thus, you get samples every 4-7 seconds (but even upwards of every 10-15 seconds in rare cases).

      Drew – RE: Meta-analysis

      Also not the way it works in this case. In looking at track points, you have a trail with a typical zigzag pattern (to keep things simple). If the smart recording skips the 4-7 seconds in between a ‘zag’, then it looks like a straight line. No amount of statistical anything brings those data points back (because it doesn’t know any better – it just thinks the line is straight). And no amount of statistical anything recreates points that aren’t recorded for 4-7 seconds.

    • Drew

      I should have made myself clearer. I agree with your conclusion “…The simple fact is using smart recording for additional statistical analysis is not valid…” but not the supporting argument in your previous comment, “…You’re missing 75%+ of the data points you need for that analysis…”. It IS possible to compare samples of different sizes. This IS done routinely. The problem in this specific case is the subsampling is non-random and depends on Garmin’s “smart” algorithm.

      A much simpler approach to investigate the underlying GPS accuracy in devices that will display a single location (as opposed to recording an activity) is to take a series of samples of suitable size at a single fixed point on the globe for each device of interest and then compare them. It should give the best estimate of location the unit is capable of. There is simply no need to frantically run or cycle around (our movements are trivial in comparison to satellite/earth surface velocities/speed). This removes all the other algorithmic junk that complicates comparison. When I get time I will have a go (I am retiring soon!)

      Of course there is the (valid) argument that units vary so the results are specific to a particular unit. The following are all admittedly anecdotal. I had a 735xt which seemed amazingly accurate (ironically I got rid of it because it was useless for following a trail for other reasons) and a 920xt which has mediocre GPS but is good for navigation. My Fenix 3 HR was initially poor but OK with GLONASS and 1s GPS and no smart recording (ridiculously bad optical HR). My Suunto Ambit 3 has both excellent GPS and route capabilities. I have had 2 x V800s, the first seemed to have really good GPS but problems with BT connection, the second average GPS and no issues with BT. The V800 is good for following routes.

      As far as which device has the best GPS accuracy. Who knows? Who cares? My training is now all HR based rather than pace based and I have stopped using optical HR measurements for interval training as the technology is not accurate enough for me. I want to know where I am when following a trail and this often fails more because of poor display algorithms than issues with GPS accuracy. If I wan’t instant pace I can use a footpod.

    • Paul S.

      “A much simpler approach to investigate the underlying GPS accuracy in devices that will display a single location (as opposed to recording an activity) is to take a series of samples of suitable size at a single fixed point on the globe for each device of interest and then compare them.”

      Maybe in some ideal sense, but that’s not the way these devices are meant to be used. They’re in motion during normal use, and the motions they’re meant to track are human scaled (as opposed to rotational and orbital velocities) and I think it’s better they’re tested that way. Personally I’ve never found one that bears up to extremely close scrutiny of the tracks, but all the ones I own or have owned do an adequate job. (Of course, for cycling I use sensors rather than rely upon GPS.)

    • Gnome

      DC: I agree with the way smart sampling works.
      You can perfectly fine compare 1 sec recording with smart recording. The way he did it was compare recorded distance covered each quarter mile with the true distance covered each quarter mile. So each true quarter mile he pressed a button on the watch for a lap. Then he used the difference between the two values (true and recorded) for the analysis.
      Drew: I agree with Paul here. The distance covered is more relevant to the intended use of the watch.

  83. MW

    Thanks for the great review.

    Do you know whether there is a version of the watch that will have Canadian maps included? And, more generally, does a watch bought in one region (e.g. US) only include maps for that area, or are they world wide?

  84. Tom

    If you have the Fenix 3HR, would you get the 5X? I am hoping to get a deal for it.
    Your thoughts?

  85. Kyle

    Coming over from Suunto its amazing how bad the web interface of Garmin Connect is, especially the Routes/course section. Its super easy on movescount to create a route, have Waypoints/POI and transfer to watch. On Garmin you can great a course but no waypoints. You have to use Basecamp, which is a chore in itself. I am refering to hiking/trail running aspect, not roads. Ray, does Garmin have any plans to improve the web interface at all?

    • Raul

      I wouldn’t count on that!
      They very much neglect it already.The search function doesn’t work for at least half a year, it’s impossible to hide the filter function for months now, lots of things not going right in Segments which also is down regularly, data is left out when exporting that, it gives power data (L & R!!) with running activities (totally unclear where these come from)
      Compared to other apps there are very little possibilities to analyse etc.
      OK it’s free………… (but we’re all paying for it when we buy the hardware)

    • Lars

      And here comes Connect IQ to the rescue.
      The easiest way for adding way points (I found so far) is Sendpoints. You choose your desired way point in an simple web interface and then enter the given for digit code in the Sendpoints app on your watch – voilà.
      link to apps.garmin.com

    • Drew

      Garmin Connect route creation sucks. Navigation on the device is poor too as autozoom doesn’t work and no information displayed once the route is off screen. I still use Movescount then export to the hidden newfiles directory on the device if using the fenix (I use suunto ambit 3 for hiking or trail running – it’s better in so many ways including a much better gps and battery life)

    • Drew

      I agree that Garmin have really neglected this aspect of their ecosystem and it is virtually unsupported/developed. DC has raised this shortcoming with Garmin in the past. I think their business model is that the device will merely host third party navigation apps using third party web services. I suspect this is one motivation for essentially rationing what is exposed through the API.

      A practical workaround is:

      I still use Movescount and transfer the route as a *.gpx onto my Fenix 3 via the hidden NEWFILES folder on the removable drive representation of the device. It converts it to FIT after the device is unmounted. You can now also import a *.gpx file into Gamin Connect on the course creation page – but it is easy very easy to miss the tiny pale blue text that is the link! I have a Polar V800 and import *.gpx files from Movescount into Polar Flow favourites.

      Software development adds to the cost of the devices and this is a way of reducing costs. I think it is short sighted. Companies like Polar and Suunto add enormous added value to their devices through their software ecosystems. Polar with its phased heart rate training and Suunto with route creation. I do not think Garmin’s strategy will work as they jealously guard what is exposed through the API and the offerings on Connect IQ are pretty sketchy despite the hype. The way forward may be to have a company such as Strava support different manufacturers hardware directly (through a manufacturer published API for the device for signed up partners). Why have endless duplication of incomplete web implementations of support for navigation, workouts, calendars by each hardware manufacturer? Polar has made a step in this direction but it is too limited at present.

  86. Adam

    Nice review. If you really don’t care about wi-fi is the sapphire glass really worth the extra $?

  87. The Real Bob

    Great review as usual Ray.

    The one data point I see missing in the review area is the “daily driver” battery life, meaning no gps use just watch use. I imagine this would be a pain to do (take a long time),but would be cool to know.

    1. How long does the battery life last just functioning as a watch (no smart watch stuff)?

    2. Can you disable the HR monitoring, if so how long does the battery last.?

    I have a garmin 230, and I use it mainly as an occasional running watch and backup cycling watch (when my 520 battery dies because I was too lazy to charge it)

    • SC

      I cant comment on battery life. I haven’t had the watch long enough, and I use it as a GPS at least once a day.

      However, it is very easy to turn off the Wrist HRM. Just go to settings > sensors > Wrist HR and toggle as necessary

    • The Real Bob

      Thanks SC.

      I wish they would just post how long the watch will operate in tracker only mode. That is info I want the most.

  88. SC

    Question about when you test the GPS?
    What are your settings?

    GPS/GPS Glonass/Ultra trac?
    every second/smart data recording?

    and anything else that may be impact its performance.

    • I use 1-second recording and GLONASS enabled for all my tests.

      At night I leave the backlight on for runs/rides, but otherwise it’s set to turn off after 8-seconds. The only Connect IQ app I use on the unit is the Stryd one (Data Field). Otherwise, everything else is stock.

    • Donald Barnes

      Ray, does the 5X have a GLONASS setting or is it on by default? I can’t find it where it used to be in the 3HR.

      The two settings I normally always change after a major reset or getting a new Fenix is 1 second recording and GLONASS. But I can’t find the latter.


    • GLONASS is configured on a per sport profile basis. It’s off by default. So from the main menu it’d be: Settings button > Settings > Activities & Apps > [Sport of choice] > Sport Name Settings again > GPS > GLONASS

      It’s a bit quicker if already in a given sport profile of course.

      1-Second recording is a system-wide setting.

  89. Joe


    In your review you said, “Also, you can just make-up a multisport mode on the fly by simply holding down the middle left button and changing the sport to something else.”

    Does this also mean if you are using this ad hoc multisport mode that the lap button will actually allow you to record laps within an activity? This is one of my pet peeves on my 3HR, that when doing any multisport activity (which you had to set up ahead of time), the lap button was really a “switch to the next sport” button and there was no way to record a lap during an activity (ie, the turn-around point of an out-and-back run leg).

  90. M Rom

    Does anyone know if widgets will be developed for the Fenix5 to control the latest gopro via blue tooth? I also sometimes bike with a helmet mounted gopro and it would be great if I could control the recording from my watch without reaching up to my head and having to fumble with which button to press. Thanks.

    • I doubt it. That would take GoPro’s approval for the SDK, and everything I’ve heard from other companies that offer products even remotely close to things that GoPro offers, is that they deny/pull SDK rights. 🙁

  91. jason

    Does the Fenix5 support live Strava segments, particularly on the run?

  92. Steve

    I was on the verge of going for the 735xt and now am completely unsure. Base on your usage Ray and wrist feel etc. what would you recommend?

    Thanks for the great write up.

    • JR

      Functionally they’re very similar. Unless some of the fringe features of the Fenix matter to you (and you’d likely know if they do already), then it’s mostly a tradeoff between price vs. appearance and battery.

  93. I have the watch and it’s great in general but I’ve noticed a really annoying bug. If I go to the “walk” application, start walking for about a mile, then pause and click “resume later” and roughly fifteen minutes later if I resume the activity and walk for about a mile again, then save the activity, I notice the latter part of the activity either doesn’t show or has severe GPS errors in it. Would you please try test this out? There’s been an issue with “resume later” in previous models I notice.

  94. Timothy Flynn

    what retailers have this in stock right now?

  95. Miro Lehky

    Has anyone look at the impact of battery life when using Bluetooth vs Ant+ sensors?

  96. Ruben

    Thanks for the review!

    Quick question (maybe this is not the best place): which sensors do you use/suggests for daily running usage?

  97. Does the Fenix 5 record garmin running dynamics (VO+GCT) and stryd connect iq data separately if you have a stryd + HRM Tri?

  98. JSantos

    Ray, big congratulations for this in depth review!

    My question is regarding the measurements of VO2Max, Lactate Threshold, Training Stress and Load.
    Are these measurements also available for different sports than Running or Cycling?
    My main sport in kayaking, I’ll love to check this data but specific to kayaking.

    • VO2Max: Specific to Running and Cycling
      Lactate Threshold: Specific to Running
      AN/AE Scores: Any sport with a HR strap
      Training Stress/Load: Any sport with a HR strap

  99. John

    Thanks for the review.
    I have a Fenix 2 that I use primarily for tracking hikes and geotagging photos. One annoying issue Ive noticed is that during a canyon hike the watch would lose GPS and record a 0,0 GPS waypoint. The Garmin Connect app seems to filter out those points but the raw GPX file still has them and they show up when I import the tracks to other apps. Anyone know if this is still an issue on the new watch?

    • No, that’s not normal. Have you double-checked the Fenix2 to ensure it’s up to date?

      And more importantly, is that the GPX file from Garmin Connect, or elsewhere? That sounds actually like a conversion issue more than a recording issue (since the Fenix2 doesn’t create GPX files, but it would be Garmin Connect that spits it out).

    • Joe

      John, I assume you are using the online Garmin Connect to create the GPX file. This is a known “bug” which has been reported (by myself and others) and confirmed to me in a response from Garmin. I believe the catch-22 is that the GPX file format requires that each data point have, at a minimum, a latitude and longitude. All other data (HR, speed, altitude, etc) is optional. My guess is that your watch (and my 3HR or other Garmins) isn’t actually recording a 0,0. It’s likely leaving it blank when it loses GPS lock. So an app like Garmin Connect that uses FIT files directly doesn’t have an issue.

      But when an application creates a GPX file from the FIT file, it has two choices:

      1. Include all data points and create fake lat/long at 0,0 in order to have a valid GPX data point.
      2. Exclude the data points without a lat/long, but then you also lose the other data like HR, etc, for those data points.

      Garmin Connect does #1. If you’d prefer #2 (my preference), use Garmin Basecamp to export the GPX file from the FIT file instead. Or you can use a text editor to manually remove the 0,0 data points including the associated data for each deleted point. As long as there aren’t too many of them it’s not very hard to do this.

      I supposed an exporter could chose to export all data points and simply leave the lat/long blank for those data points where it wasn’t recorded by the watch, but that would be in violation of the GPX file format specification and may not play nicely with other applications you use to view the file. Some apps may know to ignore any 0,0 locations…but what if you really were in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa?!

    • John

      Thanks for the info. I didnt know if it was a conversion issue or if the watch was recording 0,0 when it was out of satellite view. Ive never used the Basecamp app but Ill give that a try.

  100. Mark Rodricks

    What a brilliant review. I’ve been waiting for this review since forever. This review actually swings my purchase to the Fenix 5. Thanks!

  101. James

    Any plans for the Fenix 3 line to receive feature or software updates from the 5 lineup? Looks like the Chronos has.

  102. blazko

    Hey Ray, thanks for the review!
    I wonder if 5x is capable of auto generating high point / low point waypoints along an uploaded gpx file?
    My GPSmap 62s can do it and it’s basically the main reason I still carry it around for mountain races. If 5x works same way I would consider upgrading from F3.

  103. myneur

    It’s absolutely awesome you tested it also towards Suunto Spartan wrist hr! That is the most valuable comparison yet done because those two units are pretty in tough competition. Thank you for that! Awesome work.
    Would you mind creating another video about using maps? Basically about real-world usage. It’s a cool feature, but is that fast enough so you can actually navigate with it? Or is it too slow, so waiting for maps to render (e.g. to zoom-out for overview or when moving with the item) makes it rather a gimmick? Just a short video showing how it navigates you for a while would help a lot?

    Thank you!

    • Yeah, I had mentioned somewhere in the comments that I shot a big long video showing side by side the 5/5X on routing/trails during a hike. But I got on a bit of a rant that turned out to be Spain-specific (map issues), so I didn’t end up editing/publishing the video.

      I’m going to see if I can save it all, and if so – then will publish. Else, will likely re-shoot somewhere.

  104. Brad

    Hoping the GPS stays this stable when using the F5x in dense areas of trails!

    • If one looks back at my Australia trail runs on Hamilton Island on Strava from the end of January, all of them were with the Fenix 5, and all of them in pretty dense forests.

  105. JM

    I know this article is mainly targeted at those familiar with the product line, but you might consider specifying that battery life as listed is during activity, not standby.

  106. Mike

    Any chance my 235 will get the HR sensor upgrade to measure every 1-2 seconds when not in workout mode?

  107. Thor

    Hi Ray
    I have been using Polar V800, Fenix 2, Fenix 3HR.
    The display on V800 much better than fenix 3. The contrast is perfect and easy to read while running in the afternoon without backlight.
    What also has been bothering me on F3 is activities choosing on the watch is not recognized by Garmin Connect other than cycling and running. Activities like mountaineering, ultra run, mountain bike, crossfit, cross country skiing, skate skiing are uploaded simple as hiking, running, cykling, skiing.
    My question:
    1. How is the F5 display compared to V800?
    2. Does Garmin Connect recognize activities chosen on the watch?
    3. Is it possible to upload or make track without connecting Fenix to PC?

    Regards Eythor

    • 1) The Fenix 5 display brightness/etc is basically identical to the F3HR. So if you didn’t like that, you won’t like this. Or if you liked that, you’ll like this (assuming of course you didn’t have a defective unit or something).

      2) I’ve only tried swim/bike/run/skiing/hike + the indoor variants of some of those. It recognized those. I know they have been working to improve matching, but I haven’t tried some of the other sports you noted.

      3) Sorta. You can create a track via a desktop/laptop computer (don’t even dare try with a phone, I tried, I wanted to punch myself in the balls). But you need to sync it to the watch. But that you can do via mobile phone, as long as the track/route is within Garmin Connect. If it’s not in Garmin Connect, you’ll have to physically connect the unit.

      The one exception to #3 above is Connect IQ apps. I haven’t played with DWMap on the Fenix 5, so I don’t know off-hand if they’ve enabled out of band transfer of routes (yet). There’s a few others that have talked about it as well. That might resolve some of this.

    • Gunnar

      I have to say, I use my iPad to create routes with Garmin Connect when travelling and it works well. No PC needed.

  108. Donald Barnes

    Already having my first issues. I’ve had a day-one Fenix since the F2 and continued with my new 5X that arrived earlier in the week. Did a run with it Tuesday and I didn’t look at the data close, but it seems I had a weird spike to 188BPM HR at the end of the run for a minute or two. That’s way above my max.

    Thursday’s run the data all looks good.

    Then a hotel spin this morning. They only had a recumbent so I was holding my phone while spinning. My HR data looks normal for about 6 minutes, then it spikes and was averaging around 210BPM for 30 minutes or so. Again, my actual max is like 176BPM and I was just doing a fairly easy spin that should have been maybe 145BPM.

    Never had this trouble with the 3HR. Not very happy about it.


    • Generally speaking I try and avoid holding stuff with the hand of the optical HR sensor. I’ve definitely seen cases where it can impact things. At the same time, I totally agree that holding lighter items loosely shouldn’t do it (whereas if you had a death grip on your phone…that would definitely impact it).

      Still, spin/indoor bikes are generally among the easiest things to get optical HR to work on. So i’d try the other wrist and other positions as well.

    • Donald Barnes

      It’s just odd that I’ve never had this problem with the 3HR (and like I said, it happened on a run but to a lesser extent). I have it as snug as I’ve ever had the 3HR, too.

      I’ve also used the 3HR quite a bit lately when mountain biking with no HR data problems (I use an ELEMNT mostly, but one of my bikes has an SRM power meter, so no ELEMNT when on that bike if I want power data).

      But I haven’t had a chance to try the 5X on the MTB yet and won’t until next week sometime.


    • Donald Barnes

      Further update: Tried it again in a hotel this morning. The 5X started spiking, but I was on a bike with the HRM I could grab the pads and see. So I did. Looked as though basically the 5x was DOUBLING my HR. I did NOT have to be holding anything for it to happen, it just went double.

      I went into settings and turned off the wrist HRM. Then turned it back on. Then it worked properly for the rest of the ride.

      Basically, it’s doubling the HR early at some point and getting stuck doing that.


  109. RobHug

    I guess now the question or questions for me are:

    Is this a better device than the 920XT and is it worth the upgrade?


    How similar is it to the soon to be released 935XT…?.?

    • David

      Lots of differences. The 920XT is an older plastic based triathlon product from Garmin. It doesn’t work with the most recent versions of Connect IQ and lacks many of the higher end training metrics of more recent watches and bike computers. It’s end of life but often has more than enough features for most and can be had at good prices. The more recent 735 has many more of these more recent Firstbeat metrics and training summaries but lacks a barometer, it does work with the most recent versions of Connect IQ. The 935 is likely coming within days or just a few weeks, pictures and video have leaked everywhere but it looks very similar to the 735 and its unclear if it has a barometer but remains plastic. It has been rumored to include some new running metrics and supports swimming with its optical HR monitor (likely the same as the Fenix 5 has) and that all its enhanced features will come to the Fenix 5 with a software update. The Fenix 5 series has everything these others do but in a high end metal case with the option of a sapphire lens. You pay for the better battery and materials.

    • extremeliver

      David, so from what you are seeing, the F5 is better than the upcoming FR935? I have the FR920 right now and am slow enough in 100 mile ultramarathons that battery life is a huge issue for me. I am also returning to triathlon this season. Plus I love the new running metrics. Is there any advantage to the FR935 over the F5 that you are aware of? Except price?

      I am assuming that DC has a FR935 in his hot little hands, so cannot comment on it as of yet.

    • Patrick Utrecht

      The 920 came a few months before the F3, now the release is in reverse: the 935 will be out a few months after the F5. At this point everyone that has such a watch probably is under a NDA and therefore can’t and won’t comment on the device. You can see on some sites “leaked footage” but at this point it’s all rumor and speculation.

      Personally I expect the 935 geared towards the triathletes, hopefully (maybe?) the first watch from garmin that supports underwater optical HR (though I wouldn’t hold my breath for the last one) I only used the 920 shortly and switched to a Fenix once it was announced. The 920 was too ugly for my taste for day to day wear. Having said that, I find the F5 too expensive for day to day wear, so my guess and hopes are that the 935 will be at a lower selling point pricewise.

    • extremeliver

      Thanks, Patrick. That leaked info says it will look much like the F5, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences.

    • KeithW

      I am also looking forward, with anticipation, to Ray’s initial thoughts on the 935, to include a comparison to the Fenix 5S. I have multiple Garmin devices, but the recent hardware and software improvements look like items I could benefit from.

      My requirements do not include a barometric altimeter, nor do they include a sapphire watch crystal. As far as glass or plastic watch crystal, I prefer the more scratch-resistant glass to the more shatter-resistant plastic watch crystal, so if the 935’s is plastic I’ll likely pick up a BoxWave HD Glass screen protector for it.

  110. tom

    If you have the Fenix3HR, would you buy the Fenix 5X – If you get a good deal?

    • Donald Barnes

      I like everything about the 5X better than the 3HR, but I’m currently seeing HR data issues on the 5X that I never saw on the 3HR (which I had since the day they were released). So…I don’t know. Maybe software updates can make it better? See my comments just above for the problems I’m seeing.


    • Timothy Flynn

      what are the HR data issues?

    • Donald Barnes

      Scroll up about three comments for my previous comments on it.

  111. Huub Raemakers

    Is the Optical HR on the Fenix 5 improved compared to the Fenix 3 HR?


    • David

      Reading the review it seems the answer is…

      Slightly. Tracks very well with running, better but not perfect with cycling, and finally records your HR 24/7 every single second as opposed to every 15-60 minutes on the Fenix 3HR while not working out. That and the sensor doesn’t protrude as much so if you were one of the few who didn’t like the feel of the 3HR’s bump (most can’t feel it) then this one is essentially flat.

  112. Jim

    “Said more simply: You’ll need a Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM strap to download data. And you’ll need either a Garmin HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN to get running dynamics.”

    Wait a minute….When I first had the Fenix 3, i got cadence from the watch. Are you telling me now that wont happen with the 5? I have to wear a chest strap to see my cadence?

    • Cadence isn’t part of running dynamics. You still get that from the wrist.

      Garmin has made it slightly more confusing lately in some marketing insinuating it is part of Running Dynamics, but it isn’t.

      Officially Running Dynamics is: Vertical Oscillation, Vertical Ratio, Ground Contact Time, Ground Contact Time balance.

  113. Javier B

    Hi!! I would use the Garmin Fenix 5 for trail running and indoor bike. One week each alternative (I’m a trail runner but now for personal issues I only can run one week and the next one I should stay at home and I use a indoor bike… I have no room for a treadmill) ! How does it works with indoor biking? Is there any possibility to pair the bike exercise (I have a Nordic Track GX 10.0) and… how does it work Training Status with FirstBeat when training with an indoor bike?
    Thanks a lot!!!!

    • mjsol

      I have used the 5s while on an indoor bike. It records time, calories burned, and heart rate stuff. It does not factor in any other cycling data – speed, distance, etc., even with a footpod.

      The training effect is reported since that is heart rate data.

    • Raul

      Many (smart) trainers produce the speed etc data! And cyclecomputers too, as long as they get some data, from a wheelsensor, powermeter.

    • Paul S

      Umm, why would you think that you would get speed/distance from a foot pod? You need a cycling speed sensor for phoney speed and distance (they’re actually zero) or as Raul says many trainers will send fake numbers. But many won’t and the behavior of your 5s is exactly what you would expect.

  114. Alex

    Great review, as usual!

    You stated that the standard 5 has a longer battery life than the 5x. That’s a bit counter-intuitive to me. I can imagine this being the case when you use the unit in the map mode all the time but in normal sports recording mode the larger battery in the 5x should be superior, no?! Thanks for elaborating.

    Best, alex

  115. Bld

    Similarly great review as always

    Can I just double check that there is a Swimming Indoor Auto-pause feature as shown in the product comparison tool ie I don’t have to press the lap button when doing intervals in the pool (after each interval).

    Reason being that I emailed Garmin a little while ago and they said it didn’t have this functionality. I had thought Suunto and Polar do but can’t confirm as I only have a 920Xt
    (which I don’t believe has this functionality)

    Appreciate if you can confirm either way – many thanks

  116. Bernard Sinnaeve

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for the great review. I’ve made up my mind for the regular 5, but not sure what colour to go for.

    Hesitating between slate grey and black bezel. Two questions for you based on what you have seen so far.

    1) Which one looks nicest according to you (knowing that the answer will always be subjective)

    2) Will you see scratches more easily on the black bezel?



  117. Markle

    How come all the comments aren’t loading. Side bar says 200+ but I only see 117

  118. John

    Nice review Ray. When you wore the 5S, did you find the watch straps to be too short for your wrists?

    • It barely worked for me.

    • John

      That is not a ringing endorsement for most guys who want a smaller form factor in the 5s. I tried the F3HR and I could not handle the size. The regular 5 is smaller, but not by much. Hmmm. Thanks.

    • The Real Bob

      Awesome question John. I was thinking 5s would be in my future. But, maybe I will wait for the fenix 6.

    • David

      Well I have small wrists at 6.25in so I know it will work just fine for me but I do find it bizarre they don’t have a longer strap on the 5S (their unisex / smaller models like the 235/630/735 all have longer straps) or at the very least an optional longer strap. The 5S isn’t a small watch and for men who want something more conventional sized and not oversized sportwatch like it is a good choice but come on!

      How in the world did your brother get it on for the photo?

  119. Brad

    Ray, what is your process for syncing? I have noticed with my F3 that if I don’t delete old activities before a long trail run I result in a much better gps track. Once I stopped just syncing with my phone and started syncing with my computer and deleting old activities I saw a major improvement. Is there a specific manner in which you sync or clear old activities?

    • I just sync via phone most times. I never clear out old activities.

      If you’re syncing with Garmin Express on the desktop, it should be placing an EPO.BIN file, which improves GPS initial lock. But, the phone will do that too (unless there’s some sort of connectivity issue).

      EPO details: link to dcrainmaker.com

  120. Rj

    Thanks a lot for your in depth review Ray!

    Severely disappointed with Garmin’s decision to put a perpendicular
    charging cable as well as no wifi for the non sapphire models.

    Navigated 1,200km audaxes before with a regular Fenix 3 strapped to its charging
    cradle and handlebars then connected to a dynamo. It didn’t have maps, but the
    breadcrumb line route was simple enough to follow.

    Any chance it will charge with the old cradle? Until Garmin releases a similar
    charging cradle for this new model, will pass on the Fenix 5

  121. Geebee

    Another amazing review, thanks for the deep dive Ray! Side question – I believe the 735x has been running the latest Fenix software, or it has until now anyway. Do you happen to know if the 735x will get an update to include some of these new Fenix5 metrics, specifically Training Load and Stress metrics as well as the anaerobic training effect (already seeing the aerobic)? Thanks

  122. Brett

    Alpine ski use questions:

    – Do you wear this on the inside or outside of your shell sleeve?
    – If the outside, how does the battery hold up in cold (15F/-9C) temperatures?

  123. J Hanson

    I was wondering the Fenix 3 will get a software look change to match the Fenix 5’s rotary menu? The look is very clean.

  124. David

    Ray, if you happen to find yourself on a call with either Garmin or Clever Training in the near future can you ask what is going on with the Fenix 5S Sapphire models? Every model of the Fenix 5 series has seen a retail release at least somewhere in the world with the exception of the Fenix 5S *Sapphire* models which other than some demo/review copies are totally missing from retail anywhere. Thanks.

  125. M

    can we get a review and a look into tactical mode and grid coordinates
    thank you

  126. Hello,

    thank you Ray for this work and great review.

    About 24×7 HR recording, how does the optical recording mix with the use of strap ? Is there a hole in the timeline if you use a HR strap instead of the optical recording ?

    How does Firstbeat explains it does HRV analysis with the optical recording ? How do they take respiratory rate into account ?

  127. Mike

    hi – thx for the review, still no sign of any bike mounts for the fenix 5s?

  128. Greg

    I’m between the Fenix 5 and the Suunto Spartan Sport HR (and eagerly awaiting that full review), but I noticed that in your comparison charts that the SSS doesn’t have Run/Walk mode. I know we’re talking about the Fenix 5 here, is there really no way to set up an alert for run/walk in the Spartan Sport?? I find run/walk alerts on Garmin devices very helpful during marathons (and training).

  129. Chris O'Shannassy

    Any chance of getting some photos up to compare sizing against other brands? (Polar, Suunto) I’ve got a V800 at the minute and I’d like to see how the Fenix 5X compares for size – it seems like it might be a lot larger. (Amazon quotes a 51mm watch face?)

  130. Kev

    It’s a bit of a faff but if you have data available on your android phone you can create a route on your phone with wikiloc on the internet, export the gpx and then upload to garmin connect courses then sync via bluetooth to the watch. That worked well for me in La Palma with no desktop.

  131. John Patkin

    Thanks Ray. Great review.

  132. Knut Reinert

    Thanks for this great review. I ordered my 5x and will report back on experiences.

  133. Adam

    Morning good people!

    Anyone can comment wether 5s would fit my 7″ wrist?

    I preordered 5s sapphire, but I am not concern about the band length and would consider going for 5 sapphire.

    Thank you!

  134. Gunnar

    I was always the person to pre-order the latest greatest Garmin watch.

    But, my trusty fenix3 has just been too darn reliable. Flawless performance. Sure, I would like maps and daily HR, but not for the price. Someday I’m sure I’ll upgrade when the prices lower, but not now.

  135. Mirko Surf&Run

    Hi Ray, I looked at the run of the 21 march 2017. In the beginning and in the middle of the run the optical heart rate monitor of the Garmin Fenix5 did a great job and was very similar to the chest strap. But from the 35 minutes till the end, circa ten minutes in total, is not good.
    It seems to me that the Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor is good, but it still lacks the reliability that we would like as runners. I mean, it’s difficult to understand why it’s good for the big part of the run and then suddenly it loses the track.
    Did you remember if you have done something that could have impacted the accuracy of the Fenix5 at the end of that run?

  136. Kobi

    Very nice review
    How can i increase distance when i swimming in open water.
    When i stop for resting in same position (buoy in water) the distance continue to to grow up and its deferential distance between 2 laps

  137. Scott

    Thanks for the review and photo’s the 5s looks too small on your hand, so that will rule it out for me.
    5X would love to have the routing, but the bezel to me looks to big and to be honest not sure how good the map feature would be without a touch screen, so looks like the 5 will be what I’ll go for.

    I do hope the GPS is better, I’m tire of doing park runs (all of them are 5km set course) and only to finish with the F3 (non HR model) coming up short.
    Usually the trial run I do it’s about 100 metres short, but today it was over 250 metres short.
    When speaking to others with their GPS enabled watches, various other Garmins and a Suunto, they were within 20 metres +/1.

    My experiences wit the F3 gps tracking was the slower you went the worse it was, especially walking it was like I’m drunk and wondering all over the road.

    Hope the F5 improves on this!…

  138. Claude

    I guess I need to keep hoping Garmin will jump into 21st century with mapping at some point. It looks OK but still the same good old slow mapping we are used to seeing on other devices… Do you think there is any?
    BTW, keep it up,

  139. Todd

    I’m not familiar with Sapphire glass, is it really that scratch resistant?

    • It can be, but honestly, rarely is that were most people end up getting scratches. Most of the time, it’s to the bezel itself.

      Note the Sapphire edition also includes WiFi, which the other editions do not.

    • David

      Sapphire is harder than any substance other than diamond. It isn’t glass. Essentially it won’t scratch but its shatter resistance is similar to glass so it can break if you hit or drop it hard enough. It won’t get marred by the day to day life of hitting it against door knobs, brushing a key, hitting a wall etc. The regular glass Garmin uses in the lower end units is still very good and resistant to scratches but only you know how you will feel if in daily use it gets a scratch across it, will it drive you nuts?

    • todd

      Well, it probably would drive me nuts, so I think I’ll splurge for the extra $100 for piece of mind. I wear my watch all the time and I being able to NOT have to get a screen protector would be great.

    • DerLordBS

      Is Sapphire glass made of sapphire? Thought it would be just another brand as Gurilla Glass.

    • David

      Nope, its Sapphire Crystal and isn’t glass at all. It’s not a brand name, its a genuine Sapphire crystal lens just as is found in many high end watches and the higher end Apple Watch also. You can break it (shatter) but you really can’t scratch it (except with a diamond.)

  140. Paolo

    Not a single word on ski/snowboard… Bummer

    • I’ve got a separate video I’m working on this weekend (I shot it last week), just gotta get it knocked out. I’ll retrofit and stick that into the review.

      Short version: It works perfectly (just be sure to lock the watch).