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


*** UPDATE: The Fenix series has had two generation updates since this post. Check out the in-depth reviews for both the Fenix 5 Plus, and the Fenix 6! ***

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.

DSC_9291 DSC_9295 DSC_9293 DSC_9297 DSC_9298

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 June 22nd, 2021 @ 4:17 am New 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
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 Smart 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/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYEsYesYes
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
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
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
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)No
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesno
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+ 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
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
PurchaseGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Competitive CyclistLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

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.

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X) or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you shop with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40! The Pro's Closet has been a long-time partner of the site here - including sponsoring videos like my cargo bike race, as well as just being an awesome Colorado-based company full of good humans. Check them out with the links below and the DCRAIN40 coupon!

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

Seriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dog's house. Just in case.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

This wifi-connected scale will track your weight and related metrics both on the scale display and in Garmin Connect (plus 3rd party apps like TrainingPeaks). It'll also then sync your weight to your watch/bike computer, to ensure accurate calorie data.

The HRM-PRO Plus is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics & Running Pace/Distance metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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  1. John B

    Hey DC,

    First off, thanks for the incredibly in-depth reviews and the occasional giveaways! I have not been able to find the answer to this question about my Fenix 5 Sapphire:

    Will the Fenix 5 have enough storage capacity, with 1-second recording, during a run/trail run, to record a full 50-mile or 100-mile ultra marathon? (Battery life is not an issue since I will be using a portable usb charger if/when needed)

    I also haven’t been able to determine the maximum length (in time OR distance) that I can run before using up all the storage (I plan on using 1-second recording, and unsure whether I’ll have GLONAS on or off).

    • Brian Reiter

      Hi John B. I don’t think storage for any single activity could ever be a problem. i just checked and my fenix 5 has still has all the activities going back to the first one on May 15 and it is Sept 21 today. Thats over 1000km of runs alone logged at 1s GPS polling.

  2. Duncan Tindall

    Background: I’m still using my 910xt, a Garmin footpod and an ‘original’ Quarq crank. All this is working rather wonderfully. However I also have a desire to spend waste some money on a new toy;-)

    However, noting that there is always a bias to people reporting problems, not ‘stuff works as it should, move along, nothing to see’ posts, I’m slightly worried about the Ant+ with the Quarq (given I’ve not got Bluetooth) and with the GPS (albeit I use a footpod for pace anyway). Note that my main interest in the accuracy is giving me running pace feedback, I’m less bothered about if when I get home I ran 14.5km or 14.8km. So should I spend or wait?

  3. Andrew Chen

    Does the Fenix 5 give a VO2 max estimate for cycling without a power meter?

    Also, have you ever felt the 5x to be too cumbersome while exercising?


    • Jeroen V

      1: no idea,
      2: My fenix 5x tends to wobble a bit( especially for fast paced runs), if you don’t really want/need maps on the watch I’d recommend buying the 5/5S/FR935. I personally still use my vivoactive HR for shorter races…

  4. Hugo Zelaya

    Are there longer bands available for the Fenix 5s other than Garmin?

  5. Kris

    ​For cycling I cover more distance than running, and being on a bike I have a greater need for easy access to maps. It sounds like the 5x map is too much of a compromise, especially compared to the interactivity of maps on a smart phone.

    Does anyone have experience of using the 5 connected to a smartphone for mapping navigation? Is this a much better solution compared to the compromised view and interactivity on the 5x, albeit being all on the one device?

  6. Farhan


    I needed to ask if Fenix 5x can be used for diving upto 50 to 70 metres..
    it will be ok ? or the watch will be messed up ?

  7. Justyna Porter

    Hi DC Rainmaker, thank you for your great review!!
    I hope you can help.
    I love my Fenix 5s, absolutely brilliant, but recently I just cannot ‘sync’ my activities/sleep/steps etc.
    My IPhone 7 is paired with my Fenix5s because I get SMSes and What’s ups and can read them all on my Watch Screen BUT when I try to sync my watch with Garmin up to see stats on my Iphone or Garmin Connect, it says it’s synced but no activity has been recorded… no steps nothing… I get a comment: please check your device is connected by bluetooth and that’s all. I’ve searched for answers for hours but no luck.. I can’t work it out..
    Even when I connect my watch to my computer with the cable, the data does not upload automatically to Garmin Connect website. Sorry for the lengthy message. Hope you can help or maybe you know who could. Thanks very much, Justyna (Greetings from South Africa!)

    • Andrew

      The lack of after sales service from Garmin is shocking. Since the Android Nougat update of my Samsung Galaxy A5 – Garmin Connect cannot “connect” with my mobile phone.

      The forums are awash with similar complaints and Garmin is offering NO SOLUTIONS??

      Can DC Rainmaker please inform your loyal followers that Garmin Connect is a total failure and the service from Garmin is nom existent.

      I now have a USD899 watch that can’t sync or upload my runs???

    • Did you contact Garmin support? It’s unclear if you did.

      Often times during major phone updates, Bluetooth pairings fail. Thus in most cases you can simply remove the pairings (from both the phone as well as the apps), and that’ll resolve that.

      I’d be curious again though, what Garmin support said when you called.

  8. cam little

    Are you able to run (follow) a course and use a workout at the same time?

    • Phil

      Not a problem.
      Select the activity then long press the UP button, sellect navigation, choose yours course, press GO.

  9. vonnman

    Hi Ray,

    I got a Fenix 5X but the box says “ASIA VERSION” should i be worried? May I know what’s the difference with this and the US version?

    • Jase

      I once bought a 910xt from China when living in Shanghai and found that it was an Asia version. At this time the watch’s firmware updates were done by Garmin China and were a long way behind the non-Asian versions. Do a search on the garmin forums and you will see thee is some frustration there.

      The flip side is that the device works just fine and the internet is a magnet for complaining.

      If it was me, and I had an easy choice (return with access to a non Asian version), it go for the switch.

      If you don’t have that option. Don’t worry, it may never be a problem. ?

    • vonnman

      Hi Jase,
      Thanky you very much for the enlightenment. This is very useful information.

    • Indeed, Jase hit the nail on the head.

      In short, the situation sucks, but for most people it’s not a deal breaker. I can pressuring Garmin on it, because there’s no good reason for the delays there (well, no good ‘acceptable’ reason IMHO).

      Where it hurts most is things like Connect IQ updates (which weren’t around in the days of the FR910XT). Take for example the planned CIQ update on Nov 22nd, that unlocks various apps/functions (like Garmin Running Power). But it could be numerous months later until the Asian variants get the update. Will you get the update? Yes, almost always eventually. But the eventually part is the part that sucks.

  10. Clyde

    Hey, I have the fenix 5, saphire. Question. When i run sometimes I look down and the background to my watch face is black, and then it is white next time i look. It isn’t because of daylight it just seems to be random. Is it HR related?

  11. marc steingrand

    hello any one an idea , i can not update my garmin 5X to the newest beta version,
    i download all the files copy them as recommended, but nothing happens, this is happening since version 5,8x

    any help is very much appreciated


  12. Duncan Tindall

    I do hope you uploaded that to Strava. Can you confirm if the GPS track was accurate for the jaunt on the nudist beach.

  13. Michael

    Love the info!

  14. Zack

    Thanks for a great review. I read somewhere that the Fenix 5 Sapphire battery does not last as long as the Fenix 5 regular. Is this true caused by wifi?
    What benefit is the wifi really?

  15. Wouter

    Hi Ray,

    There’s one very annoying thing that also belongs in the “Bugs & Quirks” section.
    I just upgraded from e Fenix3 to a Fenix5 and wondered why my morning wake-up alert keeps disappearing all the time. Following link also describes the issue -> link to medium.com

    Crazy that they did not fix this by now!


  16. marc steingrand

    Hello Ray , I am asking for our help please…

    I have the gF5X and its great but not sure what happened since i updated to version 6 o firmware I am not able to install the latest beta versions, I copy them to my GF5X bu one i discount the device from the computer it is not updating,
    and when i connect to computer again the GUPDATE file not there there anymore any idea??

    • Just to confirm, are you putting the .GCD file (unzipped) within the Garmin folder?

    • Marc steingrand

      Yes i use a MacBook Pro download The filé this is automatic unpacked in the download folder I copy it to the Garmin folder
      Disconnect the f5 x and nothing happens just updating watch faces …
      When I reconnect the f5 to the Mac the gcd file is not there anymore any suggestion ?

  17. Veritas

    Hey Ray,

    I’ve been reading rumors about Garmin possibly releasing a slight upgrade to the Fenix 5 in January that doesn’t seem to be the Fenix 6 (Fenix 5 Plus?). If that is the case, would you recommend to those that are looking to purchase their first watch to hold off on the Fenix 5? Granted, it’s entirely speculation and you may have more information on the rumors than the general public. I’m very interested in the Fenix 5X, but there seems to be a lot of complaints over the GPS accuracy that has been reported across multiple blogs and forums. If this upgrade in January is legit, do you think it would be worth holding off to see if those issues have been addressed?

    The data/tech and fitness junkie in me is getting real antsy to buy this watch. Haha. I hope to gain your input on this. Thanks.

    • Andrew M

      Or you could get the Forerunner 935 which has the same internal hardware and software, but a different case which seems to cause far less problems in terms of ANT+ and BLE sensor connectivity.

  18. Marius Jacobsen Eggerud


  19. Henrico

    Hi – great review…I have a question regarding the swimming – If I swim in a pool and do different strokes for example…200m backstroke and 400m freestyle – will the Fenix 5 pick this up and differentiate between the two? And show in my post swim data?


  20. Paulo André Fernandes

    Please, I need help in a specific issue. The altitude in Fenix 5x is given based on barometer only or it gives you the altitude based on GPS also?

    • Eric

      The elevation it tells you is a mix of barometric and GPS. For short term changes it’s mainly barometric, but it automatically re-calibrates off GPS on longer time scales.

      I don’t know of any way to get it to tell you separate numbers for GPS and barometric.

  21. Dom

    This is a review of a million words, but did you really test the watch?
    I bought it on Monday…and been suspicious about it’s accuracy since second one!
    Yesterday I spent a full day outside in the cold:
    14806 steps performed or 12.3km…
    This helped to make 308 active calories…cannot be right, I am a 83kg man…
    Hearth rate is always slow to catch up also in running mode;
    Fitbit with products that cost a fifth is more consistent.
    Also if I understand HR may be a work in progress, calories calculation is a simple calculation, cannot pass on this one, really bad.

    This morning after one full hour of breakfast making and washing dishes, it accounted 3 active calories…like making a toilet break while sleeping.

  22. ej

    I just updated my Garmin Virb basic and was playing around with it and my Fenix 5 Sapphire 47mm. Before it wouldn’t pair with camera for remote control but now it does. I just received an update for the camera and added it plus an update for the watch some time back. Apparently they have added this functionality. Just when I was going to get a new camera for this seasons snowboarding Garmin had to go an fix an issue. Well it saved me some money so now I can buy the a new helmet.

  23. Eric

    I just updated my Garmin Virb basic and was playing around with it and my Fenix 5 Sapphire 47mm. Before it wouldn’t pair with camera for remote control but now it does. I just received an update for the camera and added it plus an update for the watch some time back. Apparently they have added this functionality. Just when I was going to get a new camera for this seasons snowboarding Garmin had to go an fix an issue. Well it saved me some money so now I can buy the a new helmet.

  24. Chris

    Just switched from Fenix 5 to Fenix 5X Sapphire, could you confirm that Vibration on 5X ist definitely weaker than on regular 5, or maybe I have a faulty modell?

  25. Yves

    It seems that the Fenix 3 can only store up to 30 courses on the devices (I cannot succeed in storing more courses, anf I have the latest current FW 8.50).

    Is this limitation also on the Fenix 5 series, and more specially on the 5X ?

    • Yves

      Thanks Volker.

      However my Fenix 3 has currently 30 fit files stored in the COURSES folder.
      I don’t know if there are any differences between ‘courses’ and ‘routes’. On the device they are named “courses”; however in the link you provided they mention “routes”.
      Anyhow, I cannot add more courses on the devices… the limitation seems to be 30 courses, and not 50 as described…

      A bug ?

  26. Alexis

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for the great review!
    Do you know how to show the 25k topo maps from géoportail and swisstopo without buying them from Garmin?

  27. Ed van Willegen

    Thank you for the review. However on one aspect you have put me on the wrong leg.

    I do lifting and cross fit. I like to follow my HR especially when I do HIIT with weights. In these circumstances the HR doesn’t work at all. It’s not even close. The needle just doesn’t move. I can work my butt off but my HR will not raise above 100 which is definitely not the case.

    You have any advice on that? I already regret that I bought the watch.



  28. John P.

    I picked up the Fenix 5x, primarily due to this detailed review (thanks!). I tested it out last night and was very pleased EXCEPT for the optical HR. I was doing hill sprints (8×30) and I live at 7,300 ft and the HR was waaay low (130bpm). I adjusted the watch to make sure I was below the wrist bone, tightened it, removed & put on other wrist, etc. But the HR was always low.

    I really want to believe in the optical HR tech but I feel like out of the gate it’s wrong. Any thoughts? I really do not want to have to return the watch. It was cold last night (upper 30s) and my arms are obviously moving while doing hill sprints. Could this impact it?

    If I go back to a traditional chest strap, what would you recommend for brands?

    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  29. Ma73ko

    I have not read all the post but in the review shall be added some test of Optical HR with HII Training or racquets sports…. seems that Fenix 5 is a poor performer.

    • Ed

      That’s my opinion as well.

      The HR measurement is a base for a lot of calculations an data. Calories, peak performance, VO2Max and training effect. If it doesn’t work properly it becomes basically useless for measurement of training progress.

      The optical HR is rather poor to my opinion. I do regret I bought the watch!

  30. Ed

    Something else funny. I already had at least 3 times that the phone tells me to move while I am walking. The thing is clueless obviously. Or I am an angel hovering above the ground.

    I haven’t seen any comments or advice from the rainmaker ass well…

    Also clueless??

  31. Ed

    Typo: phone is watch (Garmin Fenix 5x sapphire )

  32. Tim

    *Posted on Vivoactive 3 Review also*
    Ray – great review as always. Thanks for the CT discount for VIP membership!

    Can you post some pics comparing the VA3 to the F5 series? I am really curious how it compares. I am on the fence between the VA3 and the F5 Sapphire (upgrading my Vivosmart HR+ and want to stop carrying my Garmin 1000 on trips just to record gym gym stationary bike rides with my HR monitor).



  33. WSumer

    First off…Ray, thanks for all your work and great reviews.

    My Fenix 5X works well when at rest & for easy, short runs. But anything over ~45 mins, or at higher intensity and it seems to hit a ceiling and not register HR above 145. I’ve worn it with my Fenix 3 and chest strap (both watches set up with exact same profile), often seeing the F3 in the 170s but the F5 “stuck” at 145. This doesn’t always happen, at times the F5 will show higher HRs. But I can’t get close to recording a max HR with the F5. 

    I’ve tried wearing it as tight as possible, different positions on my wrist, and changing wrist (and adjusting the setting) but all with the same result. I only bought the F5 because I hate wearing a chest strap. If I could I would return the F5 and continue to use the F3. I can’t recommend this watch IF reliable HR measurements are important to you. It is a good watch 90% of the time, but it’s the 10% failure when I really need it that is frustrating.

    • Ed

      I agree. 90% is not good enough if 10% does the damage. I have the same issues. I bought it to get rid of the chest strap. Paid good money for it and it just doesn’t work. I can get my HR above 100. It’s a joke.

    • Fred

      Strange problem as you describe, I do not recognize this behaviour. During my runs I see regular values higher then 170. I compared teh values during a run with my old Suunto Ambit 2S watch with HR-strap versus the Garmin 5S. It’s not 100% exact but close enough. The average numbers were very close, the graphs were almost the same. Did you already google or contact the Garmin support ?

    • William Summer

      Amazon is letting me return it. I’ll buy the new HRM Run strap and continue to use my trusty Fenix 3.

    • If you can’t get it to register anything above 145BPM, then simply put – something is broke. As Fred noted, that’s not a problem I’ve seen elsewhere.

    • Ed

      Really? Don’t you read other comments?

      Here are some of the comments

      By the way, today i was gardening, i think the OHR isn’t precise, i felt my HR was sky high when did some heavy works…the OHR diplayed only 94 hr…this wasn’t right.

      I think for sports you wil always need to wear a cheststrap..

      Finally, as for wrist OHR, in general it doesn’t work as reliably (across most devices), when you have tools/objects in your hand with a tight grip. Sorta of a reality there unfortunately with much of the sensor tech today (wrist-based).

      I’d be surprised if the OHR could keep a reliable measurement though tennis motions.

      I’ve been using the Fenix 5 for a couple of days now. Unfortunately, I cannot make the OHR sensor providing me with useful information. The HR reading is completly off the chart. I tried everything – I even shaved off the hair under the watch. It didn’t help.

      Check out the picture attached. I did 10min uphill intervalls and the HR does not correlate with the effort at all.

      I’m having some difficulties with the ORH. In addition to some of the expected issue flagged in Ray’s various reviews of Garmin OHR watches, such as difficulties tracking sharp intervals and some issues with road cycling, I’m finding random spikiness and unreasonably high readings in what should be less challenging situations. This morning I recorded my normal morning walk to work as an activity and uploaded to Strava. This was a downhill walk at a pretty constant pace. I have a pretty low RHR, and I believe that my HR during this walk is typically in the 70-90 range. The HR graph shows several sharp spikes, into the 120’s with gradual declines. There is no way my HR ever got that high and the shape of the graph is entirely implausible.

      I do have to say that oHR just doesn’t work for me (haven’t had a single run without issues), while for many other people apparently it’s great.

      I won’t be using wrist-based OHR because it is too unreliable for me,

      I also had my first workout with the new device today, a 4×4 interval session on a treadmill. The heart rate was way off in the intervals. During the first two intervals it was off by 20-25 beats, and in the last two it was off with 10-15 beats. I tried to change the position of the watch during the workout, but the result was just as bad. During the resting periods it took the watch about 20-30 seconds before syncing with my HR again. I know intervals are tricky for OHR, but at some point during 4 minutes of hard intensity, it should be able to get it right!

    • Nope, you’re mixing up very different things.

      HR inaccuracy is one thing – especially when it’s variable. But the person is saying that no matter what they do they can’t get the HR to show over 145, which is actually rather unusual.

      Optical HR accuracy depends on many factors, a lot of them being how a person wears the device and uses it. But even then, sometimes there are issues – just like sometimes on chest straps there are issues. Anyone who says either is perfect is kidding themselves. Some companies are better than others, and anyone who lumps all optical HR sensors into the same bucket is also kidding themselves.

      Like it or not, what I tend to see in real-life running/riding with people that use optical HR sensors is that most wear it wrong. Most wear it too lose (flopping around), and right atop the wrist bone (also bad). Certainly, some wear it right and get issues (as I even showed in this very post). But with 1,600 comments on just this post alone, I’ve long since given up on trying to reply to every optical HR sensor bad-moment with the list of how to try and troubleshoot it.

    • Ed

      I have solved my HR issue with a Scosche OHR band around the lower arm. It’s working fine. It also proofs to my opinion that the OHR of the Fenix5 just sucks. I have worn the watch on exactly the same place (holding it nicely in place by an neoprene elbow support which I used to support my joints and ligaments during training). It still doesn’t give the results. It’s too slow as far as I can see it. I think the sample frequency icw perhaps the strength of the less is just not good enough.

      Anyway I have serious doubts about the OHR of the Fenix5.

  34. Ed

    It depends obviously what sports you do and how fast your HR goes up and down. Both for cross fit and HIIT indoor rowing it just doesn’t work.

    • MAKO73

      And is not a optical Hr problem, my polar M600was perfect in recording Hr during high intensity sessions. Running is ok but other sport can’t be recorded properly… GARMIN support is even not responding to my questions….

    • Ed

      Agree. My polar A360 with optical HR works fine.

      I found some more flaws this morning. It’s no recording sleep data. Not so imported but it just doesn’t pick it up although I have been wearing the watch during the night.

      At Garmin they can’t care less.

  35. Dennis

    Fenix 3 HR Sapphire is on sale for $400 CAD in BF. It is better value than the fenix 5/5x due to the price difference.

  36. Jesper

    >>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.

    So did it??? Or did you go back to Apple watch?

  37. Shannon

    Fenix 5 wrist heart rate inaccuracy in Stand Up Paddling.
    At the start of the session the device reads the correct heart rate but a couple of minutes into the session the heart rate reading drops and stays at a level of about 37% of max heart rate for the entire session, whereas it is in reality about 75% of max as measured by my 920 with chest strap.
    I’ve tried tightening and loosening the wrist strap but it make no difference.
    Any insight on this issue?

  38. Alison

    Sapphire glass or no sapphire glass? I am wondering if the cost upgrade for the 5S makes sense. I have a few knicks in the bezel of my old 235 and 220, but nothung overly noticeable. I am a data nerd, so am thinking the Fenix is best, but am very interested in protecting my investment. I’ve never put a screen cover on my phones and haven’t had any issues. I only keep my watch for a couple of years, have been lucky to be able to upgrade, I just don’t know if it’s with the cost. (Plus I like the black and silver best!) Plus I wear it every day, since I work at a running store.

    • Fred

      I made the choice for none-sapphire glass and the black-silver version. It looks very nice even as a regular watch. However I put a screenprotector on the glass to avoid accidents happening. I’m also very carefull but my previous smartwatch had some scratches (on the screenprotector) due to unfortunate scratching a wall.
      For me the price difference is too large (despite the additional band you get) and the black version looks the same as the FR935 (which is cheaper but has same functionality in plastic case).
      I hope my two cents help you make a choice.

  39. XS

    Hi Ray,
    If the price difference between Fenix 5 and 3 HR is ~$100, could you suggest if F5 is worth it?

  40. Jamie

    My husband likes to hike and hunt. He has gotten lost a few times in the woods. Although he obviously finds his way back, I’d like to buy him a watch to make it a bit easier. I am guessing the Fenix 5X won’t help much, since he is always off the beaten path? Is there an app on any of the watches that can help him track where he starts walking and then lead him back there when he is done?
    He also runs and works out every day so I’m sure he will appreciate any of the Garmins. Any recommendations for which one would be best suited for him wandering in the woods?

    • Nathan

      The whole 5 line has a navigation feature called “back to start” which would help. The 5x would have the additional advantage of a map for context where the 5 and 5s would just display the track.

  41. Brian Reiter

    In one of the recent beta firmware F5 updates (and subsequent up to software version v7.00 BETA) there was a BTE/ANT/SNS firmware update to v5.30. Does this update mitigate ANT+ reliability problems?

    • Brian Reiter

      The BTE/ANT/SNS “Sensor Hub” update from v4.10 to v5.30 happened in F5 Software Version 6.83 BETA from November 23, 2017.

    • No change there. Sensor hub stuff is generally just very minor tweaks behind the scenes. I don’t expect to see any mitigation at this point to the ANT+ reliability issues.

    • Brian Reiter

      In addition to this new sensor hub firmware, there are release notes on BETAs just prior to v6.00 RELEASE that indicate changes to ANT+ power management to improve reliability.

      I reached out to Stryd support who indicated that they have made a modification to the Stryd firmware to increase the transmition power of their device and Garmin has made some tweaks on the Fenix 5. “I think those two factors have mitigated the issues that arose earlier.” The net result is that they are currently not getting complaints about dropouts from their F5 customers.

      It makes sense to me that there could be a physical design problem with the F5 RF that causes intermittent problems at the margin that could be mitigated by things like boosting transmition power, scaling back aggressive power management, and possibly tweaks at the protocol level. While not fixing a physical problem they could make the marginal difference between flaky dropouts and reliable.

      It seems like there is some reason to be cautiously optimistic.

      Do you still have an F5 and Stryd that you could test with the latest?

    • Yup, I can give it a whirl on a run today.

      (I stated what I stated above, because Garmin has been pretty consistent in talking to me in saying they didn’t see any way forward on this without hardware changes. On the flip side, Stryd did have a technical solution for the specific chipset Garmin was using they believe could have made a difference. Garmin was hesitant on that for reliability reasons. Perhaps this beta is them winning a bit of a test to see what happens.)

  42. Neil Clark


    Loved the review but unfortunately my Fenix 5 doesn’t record power consistently with my stages power meter. A work colleague has a similar issue and I have seen numerous forums discussing this issue. It seems Garmin are in denial. This is incredibly frustrating. I expect a 500GBP watch to work without a hitch and to be thoroughly tested by the manufacturer.

    I had a look through some of the other comments but have you experienced any issues?

    Stages have given me a brand new unit which I will test this week but I am not optimistic. If it still doesn’t work I will be sending it back and moving to a rival product.


    • This is the never ending blame game between Garmin and Stages here. Ultimately, there’s basically two ways to look at this:

      A) No other power meters show this issue on Garmin devices, except Stages.
      B) Most other head units don’t see this issue, except Garmin with Stages.

      On item B, one should probably remember that when it comes to power meter GPS watches, Garmin outsells everyone else like 95:1 for GPS watches, so it’s harder to see those trends.

      None of which really changes your predicament. Try pairing it on Bluetooth Smart instead, some folks have seen better luck there. While there are issues as noted in the review on connectivity to 3rd party sensors on the 5/5S, Stages is one that’s kinda been an issue for years across many devices. It’s generally agreed upon within the industry that the transmission coming off of a Stages power meter is less than most other power meters.

      This generally fails for people on the wrist specifically because usually people using it are on tri bikes, and usually that means their hands are further forward, and usually against aerobars. Which usually means you’re body acts as a huge signal blocker (wrist), plus the aerobars and related cockpit goodness.

      Not making excuses for either company, just explaining the reality of the situation that’s been this way for years.

    • Ryan

      I disagree with the statement ‘no other power meter show this issue with Garmin’. My ‘G3 Powertap hub’ drops in and out of my Fenix 5 too. I am not on a tri bike, I am on my road bike (size 56 so not overly large frame with a long reach).

      I compare data with my 510 and it is sometimes way off. I never had this issue with my Fenix 3. So what I can say is the Fenix 5’s reception is pretty ‘crap’ in relation to the Fenix 3. It is disheartening and frustrating as I prefer the size of the Fenix 5, the straps are better (although, I could put one on the Fenix 3). I like the split between anearobic and aerobic during an activity and I like the 24hr heartrate (although, when I do a ‘proper activity’, I will use a HR strap as I know the HR in the watch is not reliable when doing intervals etc.. I expected that from the go)..

      Anyway, first world problems.. Now the issue is, do I sell the Fenix 3 or the Fenix 5? Do’oh..

  43. Phil

    Continuing the dropout theme I get dropouts using the Garmin Tempe sensor.
    All I here is:
    Change the battery. Done it.
    Reboot the Fenix 5. Done it.
    Keep the two devices closer together. Tried it.
    I wait untill the Tempe connects before starting the activity. During the activity it periodically drops connection and records data from the built in thermometer causing spikes in the graph.
    I fall into your catagory of geek full of data and find this issue frustrating.
    Has anyone had or even cured this issue.

    • PureZOOG

      I get the same annoying issue with my 935. I’m pretty sure it’s a firmware bug and I’ve already contacted Garmin about it a while ago. Another annoying issue is that I have two Tempes and sometimes find that the watch will connect to the sensor that’s on my running shoe circa 30ft away through two brick walls, but not the bike’s sensor that’s just 1-2ft away. It would be great if I could prioritise a sensor for a particular activity, i.e., just look for the running Tempe when starting a run, and just the bike one when starting a ride. In terms of ‘curing’ it I’ve found if you go into sensor settings and force the connection to the appropriate Tempe I get no dropouts, however I’ve only done this three times so far as it’s such a palaver to do at the beginning of an activity, so it might just be a coincidence. Ray any chance you mention these issues to Garmin please?

  44. DC Rainmaker, thank you once again for a great review.

    Some folks mentioned they wanted to see more on the navigation features, and I have a step-by-step there (and more of a hiking based review) on my site here:

    link to hikingguy.com

  45. Neelam

    I purchased a Fenix5 as a one stop device – however adding to the dropout issues: For me, a Watteam Powerbeat and Stages. Both of which work flawlessly on other headunits, including other Garmins.

    Interesting is the fact that BT is more stable than ANT but not 100% – and ANT is supposed to be Garmin’s own protocol!

    Garmin support actually responded that they dont support 3rd party devices, and are more or less burying their head in the sand over it – despite marketing the device to support all of these features.

    • It’s more than BT coming off Stages is at a slightly higher signal strength.

      The challenge is that the Stages unit signal is well known to be an issue (and has been for years). Combined with the lower quality reception on the 5/5S, it hurts.

    • Tantrix

      Yes, I have connection issues Fenix 5 with Stage powermeter. And connection Garmin Edge 510 to Stage no problem. When I put Fenix 5 on frame of bike very near the pedals, than ok, if I put on the wrist and make distance between pedals and watches bigger, then connection failed. So I can use F5 on home , close to turbotrainers and pedals, because want estimate my VO max by Fenix 5, but after it will be not possible in the spring , when will start outdoor season. So it is all very sad, because I did`t find this issue before buying F5.

  46. Alexander Momberger

    Hey folks, I just recently switched from the 735xt to the fenix 5. So there is one thing that drives me nuts: All my activities that I recorded with the 735xt had “Elev Corrections” enabled. For the fenix 5 they are always disabled and the discrepancy between the altimeter & corrected data is huge. Now, I don’t know which data is more acurate, but I want to compare my new activities to my old ones. So why can’t define the “Elev Corrections” for my fenix 5 to be “activateed” for all (future) uploads? I automatically deactivates the correction for new activities! So, Is there a work around? Thank you in advance!

  47. Preston Thompson

    I am not able to locate the Leather band for the Fenix 5X on the Garmin website. Do you know how to order one?

  48. Dirk

    Hi ,

    I have a fenix 5s with the normal glass screen.
    This week, it broke after a very small impact that i even haven’t noticed.

    Is the expensive repair (± 182 €) by garmin the only solution for this problem?

    Or do you know another solution for me?

  49. Tim

    I have a Fenix 5 inbound for my birthday (not sapphire). Does anyone recommend a screen protector? Do you really need it? I bought it from REI so it has a 1-year satisfaction guaranteed clause in case I wish I had the 5X or the 5 Sapphire.

    I am mainly planning to use it as my primary activity & sleep tracker and to keep track of workouts, walking and hiking while traveling (2-weeks a month). I may start swimming this Spring as well.

    • fred

      On my fenix 5s do I use a screenprotector since about 5 weeks (24/7). It withstood hiking, training and a little swimming and showers. Better safe then being sorry. I bought mine on Amazon link to amazon.co.uk

      They are a little smaller but this is helpfull in applying them or getting them off if needed.
      Up untill now, no scratches.

  50. Naomi

    Hallo Dear Rainmaker,
    please, can the Fenix 5x show HRV on display all the time, while running.
    You answer would make me glad. Thank you

    • No.

      The 5X’s optical sensor can’t do HRV during a workout (nor does it display raw HRV data natively). Perhaps there’s some 3rd party Connect IQ app that does something I’m not aware of for day to day use.

  51. Maria

    Hi Ray! Do you have any idea as to when Garmin will release a new watch to update the Fenix 5? I have taken so long to buy it, I don’t want to invest in it to see another model come out right after! Thanks in advance and happy holidays!

  52. Simon Hofmeyr

    Hi Ray,

    Apologies if this has been asked before, i just cant read through all of the above questions…sorry.
    Is it possible to add an existing set of GPS coordinates (given to me by someone else) to my Fenix 5x? If so, how?

  53. GRS

    Thanks for the great review!! It helped me to decide between the Fenix and the Spartan.
    Just received my F5 and started using it (I’ve been using a FR620 just to run and ride, so I will have to consider wearing a watch all day again).
    Keep the great work and our lives easier everytime we need to decide where to jump next on our devices!!

  54. John H

    Thanks Garmin – a christmas present I’ve wanted for ages.

    on the latest beta we have: Added the ability to access ‘Broadcast Heart Rate’ from the Controls menu (Settings > Controls) as well as through the system Hot keys (Settings > System > Hot Keys).

    no longer 42 key presses to connect HR to Garmin edge

  55. Geo Maddix

    This is my first comment. Over the last decade or so I’ve been relying on DC Rainmaker’s in-depth reviews to influence my purchasing decisions. Thank you!

    Now how about the Tanita BC-1000? It has ANT+ but I can’t find anything about 5x compatibility.

    Thanks DC Rainmaker for this resource!!


    • Garmin stopped making watches that work with ANT+ scales some years ago (3-4 I think). However, I believe Tania does have a Connect IQ app that works with it (and on the Fenix 5), but I don’t know the details of how well it works.

  56. Melissa

    I Just got the 5s and so far I love it but there’s one niggling little thing I can’t seem to change.

    I like to use my watch to track the various gym classes that I take. Obviously when I am indoors I do not care about distance, speed, or GPS. However I cannot see any option in the default Indoor Cycling Activity to shut off GPS and stop reporting speed and distance. (I’m not going anywhere on a stationary bike).

    I also created a custom activity called Class for a bodypump style class. I was able to get the watch to turn off GPS, and to only display the data I care about (calories, time, HR). But in both instances when I stop the activity it still gives me a distance displayed. Is there any way to cut that out?

    I’m just really surprised that in many of the factory-provided indoor Activity types, that it’s got GPS on by default with no way to configure it to stay off by default during that activity. I don’t want to have to go into system settings and toggle GPS every time I start an indoor workout!

    • melissa

      it’s also annoying when i go into the mobile app to see my activities summary for the day and I see “Indoor Bike : — mph —- speed 55:00 minutes” – ideally i’d love to just see time/calories/hr. Distance and speed are irrelevant (and unmeasurable) in indoor spinning!

    • Kristen

      I’m really curious about this as well! I currently have a VivoActive HR and want to get something new as they don’t make these anymore. During my gym workouts with the VA HR my watch displays Work out time and Calories burned. If there is a way to set this up on a Fenix I am sold. If not I don’t know ill stick with Garmin :(

  57. Jan

    It‘s on sale at the moment @amazon.de for 359,20 €
    Price is 449 but black/grey has a 20% off coupon which is activated during checkout. Sold by amazon directly.

  58. William Taylor

    I am not impressed with Turn by Turn on my Fenix 5X on trails and nature preserves. Do I have to get the 24K to get turn by turn and to help me discover and navigate trails and nature preserves? How can I explore these trails and find them then load on my watch so that I don’t get lost while on them? Any ideas on a website that helps with this or would the Garmin 24K topo maps and basecamp help with this. I now that many trails in Michigan are not found on the 100K topo. Thanks.

    • Drew

      I have a fenix 3 hr. Turn by turn navigation works by picking up map metadata rather than recognising a sudden change in direction. I found this to only to work in urban environments and not on trails (at least not in the UK). You can build a route in Garmin connect and download to the device. It does not seem to support waypoints (the website now sports a clunky way of adding these after much criticism but it doesn’t work). You can use other route creation tools such as Strava (free) and copy the gpx download to the hidden newfiles directory but it ignores waypoints. Suunto does the whole navigation thing so much better (see my previous comments). The idea of maps on a watch is a gimmick. You just need a route displayed to indicate the direction you need to travel at the appropriate level of zoom. Look at a paper map now and then – hi res – enormous screen – colour – visible in direct sunlight – infinite battery life. Its safer and its fun! Garmin is only interested in marketing. Their strategy is to produce lots of device variants with lots of features to penetrate as much of the market as possible irrespective of whether they work properly or even at all. I use my Polar M430 for serious training and my old Ambit 3 for hiking at which it excels.

    • Drew

      P.S. and both devices cost less in total than a fenix 5!

    • william

      I’m hard on a device so I’d need the Sapphire edition of any. So that is a game changer for price it appears.

    • I have the non sapphire Fenix 3 which my dog now uses, strapped to her collar, for walks and canicross. She’s about as rough as you could get on a watch but it hasn’t scratched yet and never missed a beat.

    • Naomi

      Ok, so I googled ‘how to attach Fenix 5 to dog collar’ and this is the only thing that came up 😂 how did you do it??

    • ML

      I’m not the one that made the comment, but I’ve been strapping my 5X to my dog’s collar to see how far she goes when we go on off leash walks in a park full of other off lease dogs vs how far I go (usually 1.8x’ish, for anyone curious). I’ve been using hook and loop straps. Seems to work pretty well.

    • I have these collars link to amazon.co.uk and I unscrew the watch band pins and run it through like a normal watch band or for Fenix 6 onwards because they changed the pins (for the worst) I bought a little pouch that they sell on places like Etsy that are attached to the collar and usually used for a tracker but the watch fits perfectly. Both my girls have the 5 and as ML said great for seeing how far they go so most days I’ll do 10k and the Dalmatian will do 11/12 and the GSP about 14/15 but she once did 22k when we walked with another Pointer and we did 8k.

  59. Claudio

    Thank you for the very useful review.
    Do you have investigated about the Bluetooth range of Fenix 5? I’ve observed that its range is shorter with respect to the forerunner 235 and to polar m400. I’m referring to smart notifications between the phone and the smartwatch. In particular it loses the signal when the phone and the smartwatch are in different rooms, at a distance of 4-5 m, while the other watches are still connected. Have you observed the same behaviour ?

  60. DC Dan

    Really appreciate your exhaustive product reviews, very helpful, well done. Question on Garmin Connect privacy.

    Just got a Fenix 5 and bike sensors to replace my (don’t laugh) Polar 625SX. Initially loved the Fenix but now am totally spooked about privacy since the thing needs to be linked into Garmin Connect which looks like a Google data mining play once one looks under the hood.

    Fenix is a beautiful multipurpose device I can use for training, competition and wear to work without looking like a dork BUT looks like everything I do from bike to bedroom is getting synced 24/7 to Garmin and then shared. Some digging and I find Garmin Connect code pings Facebook (graph.facebook.com) and Ad Trackers (tags.tiqcdn.com) even though I don’t use Facebook and I set Garmin Connect to private, private. So now Facebook and who knows who else has my phone IP and associated it with my device (if you have a phone IP you have a name). And Garmin Connect privacy statement references using personal data for marketing purposes and sharing with affiliates, etc.

    Using free services like Gmail means Google will pretty much record and sell everything you do, that’s the deal. But after paying $800 for some Garmin gear last thing I want is all my activity mined and monetized via Garmin Connect. Remember when Lenovo got busted for embedding Superfish in laptops? Or when Samsung TVs had open mikes? That’s kind of how I feel now.

    Any idea how much of our data Garmin is monetizing and any way we can stop it? Or alternatively if there is a desktop only option for the Fenix (similar to my old Polar with the desktop app) where all of our data isn’t sent to Garmin? I don’t use social media, zero interest in sharing, comparing, etc. just want my metrics. Any thoughts or insight would be appreciated.

    • Garmin Connect privacy policy.

      link to connect.garmin.com

      IANAL: They appear to claim not to share your data with 3rd parties unless you connect to other services like Strava or use social media login. They do use Google Analytics and Azure analytics on the servers and HockeyApp crash analytics in the Garmin Connect app.

    • DC Dan

      So they say but then why are they providing Facebook with my phone and watch IP even though I have set Garmin Connect to private? Also, privacy policy references service not for use by those under 16 so if the personal data is 100% locked down, why the disclaimer for children? Unless you opt out, Garmin most certainly shares your data and I believe even when opting out they still share (like my phone and watch IP address).

      I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I am in the IT business so anything connected to the cloud basically is in play. Good summary here on privacy concerns with activity tracking devices – link to techcrunch.com

  61. Itamar Kass

    Hi and happy new year to all,

    I’ve recently bought Fenix 5x after few happy years with ambit 3. I was amazed by how bad the web interface is. Specifically, I could not found any way to change watch specification (eg light on or off during workout). Does anyone knows how to set watch specification at the web interface and then sync it with the watch?


    • Patrick Utrecht

      Lacking an F5 myself, I’ll go out on a limp and say that you probably should look on settings on the watch itself, all garmin devices I own can alter each setting on the device itself. Doing this by a web interface is taking a detour and may not work at all.

  62. Simon Walsh

    Great review as ever… now to buy the 5X!!

  63. advaitasiva

    dear rainmaker
    thanks to your review I bought the fenix 5s. i used to have a tom tom . dont get me wrong it did his job but now i can cleary see why this watch costs more. im super happy with it.
    and besides the white color is beautiful

  64. Jason

    Simple answer to this most likely. How do I get to the music control widget while using the watch for a run? When I try to scroll up and down I just get the different run screens. Thanks in advance anyone!

    • Andrew M

      1. You need to have installed the music controls widget.
      2. To access the widget loop during a run, you need to HOLD the down button (assuming you still have the default hot key setup).

  65. Gunnar

    So far so good with my fenix 5 after a week. A few minor drop outs on with the tempe sensor, but Vector 2 Power Meter pedals seemed to work ok after a few rides and Scosche HR worked fine for my Sunday 4 hour ride.

    Clarity of the lcd screen is noticeably better then the fenix 3, that certainly helps with my failing eye sight. It’s also the perfect size for my wrist. I eventually got used to the fenix 3 size, but this is better.

    I’m also digging the stress metrics and increased HR data capture. Expensive as all get out, but I found one dirt cheap on ebay.

  66. Peppe

    hi , is anybody having issues with Altimeter ? I have a fenix 5 and altimeter is completely off, looks like i have been on everest few times! i called garmin support here where I live and they are very aware of the problem … they proposed to replace it, but they are not sure i will not encounter this issue again, to the point that they said i could consider going for the FR935…

    • DC Dan

      I had the same problem, altitude ranging from +65,000 feet to – 1,200 in the same spot on my brand new $750 Fenix 5 Saphire. I believe problem to be more likely related to barometric based altitude adjustment rather than GPS because these wild swings occurred during crazy weather here in DC; however, my issue was resolved by (1) removing all non factory watch faces and (2) calibrating altitude and barometer with GPS. Keep in mind if you have watch on ‘auto’ your altitude will be driven by barometer so big weather system comes flaming in and your elevation will swing accordingly.

      I didn’t run a strict testing protocol but I am certain watch faces played a role because (1) when installed I experienced lag or non reponsiveness on some buttons/functions and other weirdness and (2) all problems disappeared when I removed the watchfaces (I know, post hoc ergo propter hoc but too much of a coincidence. Also try comparing your watch barometric reading with local weather station – pick an activity, add barometric pressure as a data screen, and then you can compare to weather station. Might not be exact because some stations may altitude adjust but should be in the neighborhood. Hope this helps.

    • I think it is a lot easier to find negative feedback on the Itnernet than the silent majority that are reasonably happy.

      I have had a fēnix 5 saphire since May and I have had very few problems. The firmware updates have generally resolved issues that I have had and introduced new features.

      I had one GPS track go haywire during a cross country race with GPS+GLONASS enabled and a clear sky with no obstructions. On that occasion the only other runner with GLONASS enabled (on a fēnix 3) also got insane results. I subsequently turned off GLONASS and never had another significant issue. I subsequently learned that GPS+GLONASS is probably best for use in a city with tall buildings to improve tracking where there are a lot of reflections and interference with the sky. It generally makes it worse with unobstructed sky.

      I had the display freeze and become unresponsive during a fartlek session while running a beta firmware once several months ago and I thought I was going to lose data. It turned out to be entirely a display freeze and after about 5 minutes the watch recovered and I had data and a GPS track for the entire run that looked sensible.

      The GPS tracks and mileage is reasonably accurate and comparable to TomTom, Fenix 3, Forerunner 25,Forerunner 35, Forerunner 235, and Forerunner 620 results that my buddies get. The 1km pace and splits are always reasonable (with the above one-time exception). The instantaneous pace is sometimes very wrong but will correct itself in a few seconds. I feel like there has been some improvement in this area probably using the accelerometer to smooth the pace. I’m located in Southern Africa with very few tall buildings.

      Back around June or July on one occasion, I had course navigation telling me to turn into the wrong road maybe 100m too early. There have been several firmware revisions and that issue did not recur.

      I find the wrist heart rate sensor to provide reasonable-looking results 99.9% of the time. Rarely, I will see a spike that seems questionable but I also have seen occasional wonky results on a chest strap. Overall, it is a win for convenience.

      The barometric sensor seems to give reasonable results except when I did an entirely uphill mountain half marathon into a rain storm where the barometric pressure was falling due to weather while I was also climbing. In this case it read quite low compared to adjusted GPS net elevation gain in Garmin and Strava.

      The temperature sensor on the watch is clearly affected by body heat and I don’t think it consistently provides accurate numbers within 5C.

      I have fallen in a cross country race and tumbled and bounced the watch face off of a rock which left no marks. I also fell once on a steep muddy descent in the rain head and arms first into mud and rocks. My skin was torn up, there were scratches on the rubber strap, but once I washed the mud out of the watch there were no marks. I don’t think my old Forerunner 230 would have survived either of those events intact.

      I easily get a full week between charges with doing activity tracking workouts daily, mostly outside with GPS enabled.

      I don’t currently have any ANT+ or bluetooth accessories, so I cannot say whether I would have an issue with reliability of personal area network devices.

      Also for comparison, I have some mates with TomTom watches and in the past year two of those have done either complete scribble GPS during a race or shifted the whole track by at least 100m diagonally so that it doesn’t line up with any roads. None of this tech is perfect.

      I would be happier if the display were 30-50% more pixel dense but not at the expense of significant battery life.

      Overall, although it is expensive and not perfect, I have been happy with the device. Enough so that I just purchased a fēnix 5s for my wife.

    • Peppe

      thanks Dc Dan for your suggestions , I will try !

  67. Aleander Momberger

    Does the garmin fenix 5 have any gps-problems?

    I’ve got one since mid November and have don plenty of runs and bike-rides. When compared to the Forerunner 735xt and my note 5 the accuracy of the fenix 5 is notecibly better! I’d say it’s the best performing gps-device that i’ve ever had.

    I use GPS+Glonass and I did several test-tracks, i.e. zick-zack runs, “Writing-Runs” (trajectory represents letters & words), etc. The fenix’s performance is stunning and I could clearly “run words” within a 5m*5m-letter-raster.

    So did I miss something?! What problems is the fenix 5 said to supper from?

    Also: Since it’s CES now, what are the rumors for a fenix 5 (plus/titanium) update and/ or a fenix 6 models? What is expected to be new and when is it speculated to be released?

    Thank you all!

    • DC Dan

      So you’re the one that got the functioning Fenix 5! But seriously, I love my new watch but GPS is all over the place and seems to be a common complaint based on the Garmin forums; however, being a new user I’m withholding judgement until I am certain I am using the darn thing properly. As per my previous post I have found conflicts with supplemental watch faces so have removed them all and now the watch seems to be running fine. Still a few quirks but these could be intentional, still learning the thing.

    • Aleander, I was attempting to reply to your comment and seem to have replied to the person with a barometric pressure sensor problem accidentally. See my comment to you in #1675.


  68. 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.

    • Brian Reiter

      Neither fellrunr nor DC Rainmaker are able to test fo sample variability by having several of the same units. Anecdotally it does seem like there is significant sample variation, particularly in early production units. There have also been a lot of software updates and it isn’t clear to me if ConnectIQ apps and data fields can affect the overall performance of the device. (I suspect they can.)

      Your UK trails must be much more difficult to navigate than the trails in the bush in Southern Africa. I know many people navigating ultra run trails in the bush using Garmin Fenix and TomTom Spark. The Fenix 3 is the most popular watch with the F5 trickling in. I only know one person with an Ambit3 and her watch died on the 21km group run I was on today. (I’m sure she just forgot to charge it.)

      My real world experience is that all of the recent watches are pretty similar in performance most of the time. Sometimes any one of them may freak out without an obvious explanation.

      In any case I think the testing that Ray has done tends to show the devices are all pretty acceptable in real world GPS performance.

    • Paul S.

      “…it isn’t clear to me if ConnectIQ apps and data fields can affect the overall performance of the device. (I suspect they can.)”

      They certainly can. A few months ago I put a ConnectIQ field (I think, I don’t remember what it was any more, could have been a widget) on my Edge 1000. From then until I finally realized what was happening and removed it, I had ANT+ connectivity problems which I had never had before. That Garmin permits an IQ thing to screw up a core purpose of a device is worrying.

    • Drew

      It is a shame a third party site such as Strava is not able to provide this information. It has the luxury of a huge population sample of real world use and it knows which devices were used (though I don’t believe the sampling or recording rates). Segments would provide an ideal basis for comparison. I bet some companies would pay to keep this quiet! (if they have not already done so).

      My only African experience is of running in the Sahel in W.Africa. If the bush in S.Africa compares then yes, running trails in the UK is far more demanding for a GPS device (though not as physically challenging for the athlete!) for obvious reasons (Very sparse vegetation compared to to lush nigh on temperate rainforest in S.Wales and a large number of very narrow trails).

      Not sure why you mention someone not charging their watch – what is the significance?

      My real world experience is that the world is flat, projectiles run out of impetus, particles do not exhibit wave like behaviour, simultaneity is not relative and moving clocks run at the same rate as stationary ones.

      It is a good job some brighter sparks were able to see beyond the “real world” or we would not have atomic clocks, special and general relativity and …. oh yes, GPS which is based on these non real world concepts!

    • Brian Reiter

      Ha! Yes, West Africa is very different. Terrain ranges from veldt, to vlei (wetland), to mountain and dense forest.

      The real world I inhabit is actually an oblate spheroid. That means I have to deal with time zones and my international airplane flights travel in arcs. Quantum effects happen in my computers all the time and a practical application of Einstein Relativity allows instantaneous, cheap, and fairly precise geolocation.

      I don’t see much practical evidence that any male or model of consumer GPS watch is dramatically more or less accurate than 3-4m for each measurement and ~3% overall. They are differentiated by other features and industrial design and branding. I’ve seen faults happen on different makes and models that were not repeatable.

      Garmin’s breadcrumb navigation does, in fact, work fine.

  69. Mark

    Hello Ray

    First of all, thank you for your great reviews.

    I have a simple question for you:

    Garmin D2 Charlie is the same that Garmin Fenix 5x, but including aviation mode?

    Thank you

  70. ian porter


    link to fccid.io

    could a fix to the ANT+ issues finally be on the horizon?

    • Ivan

      So what this practically means for existing unhappy users of fenix 5 sapphire
      (unhappy because of stryd incompatibility and generally dropout issues because of poor signal)?

    • ian porter

      I’m hoping it’s going to lead to the ‘silent fix’ that Ray suggested and that we’ll be able to swap our watches out for one’s that work

      My Stryd kind of works with mine but my Tacx trainer is a compete nightmare :(

    • Ivan

      I hope that that is possible scenario.

  71. Melissa

    This is the most in depth product review I have ever read. Period.

    Hoping to train for my first Ultra with a 5s soon!

    Kudos and thanks.

  72. peppe

    incredible , after having had fenix3 changed 3 times as they all died, now with the 5 the barometer altitude issue.
    i really want to like this watch , but they just don’t work. I have to say i never ever returned a suunto or a polar , never .
    I think it’s just poor manufacturing. Great customer service though they are always ready to assist and give you a new watch, as i am sure they know they always have issues.
    maybe spend a bit less in customer service and more in quality of manufacturing could make sense.

    • Neelam

      It seems like there might be some progress with the F5 antenna issues:

      link to the5krunner.com

      Dont know if this will mean a product recall, or a newer F5 variant… Hopefully we will see some announcements in the next few weeks…

    • Too much is being read into that FCC spec item. Far too much.

      The issue around connectivity has *never* been the antenna with the Fenix 5. It’s the specific communications chipset they selected on the 5/5S, they can’t get the power out of it they need for the range they want. By time they realized the extent of the problem, the ship had sailed. Antenna placement can change for a million reasons, most notably shifts in other internal components.

      I’ve argued they should have paused sailing and addressed then, but alas, I’m not the captain of that ship.

    • ian porter

      It does say it is to increase power output of ANT+ and BLE though so a bit puzzled if it’s not to address the problems

    • Ivan

      at the end, the fact is that fenix 5 have serious flaws when is paired with different sensors (p1 pedals, stryd…). for example I have big difference of NP between 520 and fenix…

    • Generally speaking, when people have different NP values, it’s because they’ve set zero averaging to be different.

      Dropouts can be a cause, sure, but only two people above have reported P1 issues, which is pretty minimal.

  73. Tim Chapman

    I cant work out if it is Garmin or Huawei who are to blame for the current bluetooth incompatibility with the fenix 5. Each one are blaming the other. Anyone got any inside info on the current situation.

  74. Benjamin C

    I do swimming, cycling and running and I’m a bit confused with Garmin’s product line-up. For me, would there be any difference between a Fenix and 920XT ? Both seem good for swimming and running workouts (I use an Edge 520 on the bikes)
    Is there any reason to buy a Fenix over a 920X, or vise-versa ?

    • The 920XT is a generation old. It’s a solid device but kinda clunky looking and doesn’t have an optical wrist HR sensor. There’s nothing wrong with it. Solid and reliable, lots of people I know use them for Triathlon up to Iron Man and Ultra running. You should be able to get a good price.

      The FR935 replaces the 920. It has a round display and newer software. It supports the latest accessories and comes with optical HR sensor, but you will want a chest strap for swimming and cycling. It’s a Fenix 5 in a plastic case without the metal bezel and sapphire crystal option. The FR920 seems to have marginally better Bluetooth/ANT+ connectivity than the Fenix 5 and 5s (but not the 5x), which makes a big difference for reliably connecting to the accessories from 3rd party vendors that should be compatible. YMMV.

      The Fenix 3 HR is very similar to the F5 but in a larger case. Main difference is the software is a little slower and the screen resolution is a little lower and less colorful. The F3 series does not support the latest ConnectIQ API for 3rd party apps. The Fenix 3 non-HR is more similar in functionality to the 920XT, but heavier andlooks a lot cooler. You can get the F3HR new at the same price as a F3 on Amazon, so I would not consider the F3 without the optical HR unless you are getting a steep discount.

    • Benjamin C

      *Edit…. Just realised the 920XT has been superseded by the 735XT / 935.

  75. Scott Brewington

    I have found that my Stages PM is now holding a connection with Fenix 5. Not sure if a firmware update addressed this but I’m happy none the less.

    • Gunnar

      What firmware are you on? I’ve been on a bit of a roll trying various Garmin devices. Just finished a 35km ride with my (new to me) fenix 5 Sapphire and I had zero drop outs.

      Units used during the ride:
      Forerunner 935, edge 810, edge 1000 and fenix 5 Sapphire (with firmware 7.60). All units with 1 second recording and Glonass off.

      Paired to the devices were:
      Vector (2) dual sided power
      Scoshe optical HR

      When I compared all 4 activities in Garmin Connect, every single activity showed no drop outs in sensors (ok, 2 small drop outs from the tempe with the 935, but zero drop outs otherwise).

      Ray, your thoughts on if Garmin may have solved some issue here with ANT+ connectivity? I was going to sell off the fenix 5, but now might move the 935 along.

      Here’s the fenix 5 file:

    • Scott Brewington

      7.60. I have had over 100 miles with no drop outs. Worn on my wrist and mounted on Madone handle bar.

    • Gunnar

      One week in on 7.60 and no drop outs either (vector 2, Tempe, Scoshe optical HR)

      When I figure out how to link my activity’s here I’ll do so.

  76. Kari Jokela

    Hi, what’s your view on the altimeter / barometer problem of Fenix 5? My device is absolutely crazy on that and this unit is already the third trial (thru RMA)?

  77. Jonatan

    Hi there. I was wondering if there are different versions of Fenix 5x Hardware out there. I mean, i wouldnt like to end up buying some really old version of Fenix 5x (first ones out there) which may have hardware issues.
    I know software will be probable needs to be updated which is not a problem cause that works like a charm, but is there anything i need to know about hardware?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

  78. John

    Hi DC

    Thnx for this review

    Do you have any idea why the HR monitor is “all over the place” after the firmware update on December?
    A lot of people are facing similar issues. Heard anything? Any tips maybe?

    Its really disappointing . I came back to garmin with top of the line watch after a 3 years pause with suunto cause I didnt like their software issues and they fail on basics.

    Ikeep up the good work,


  79. Dan

    I’ve noticed my HR isn’t accurate any more now. I’m on the latest FW as of now (7.60).

    Yesterday was a cold duathlon event, 3.6m run, 17m bike, 3.6m run.

    The ride was 2 laps. My pace and effort was pretty much identical. 11 seconds time gap between each lap. Conditions remained the same.

    Temp was 6 degrees with a cold north wind.

    My HR on the run looks normal. My HR on the 2nd run takes about half a mile to “come up” and is then normal.

    See attached pic for my bike HR. It just stops being accurate about half way through the cycle. This isn’t the 1st time i’ve noticed this.

    The watch is tight on my wrist, not moving during the ride or the runs.

    Any advice, is the unit faulty? It’s < 1 year old, purchased from Wiggle. Should I look for an exchange with Garmin / Wiggle?



    • Andrew M


      One of the body’s responses to cold conditions is to divert blood flow away from the limbs and the surface of the skin, and restrict it to just the head and core (preserving body heat for the essential organs). As OHR measures changes in the light reflected back from the LEDs with each heart beat, reduced blood flow makes getting an accurate OHR reading from the watch harder.

      The legs are probably OK, because they are working hard and generating heat, but blood flow to the arms would definitely be reduced in the conditions you describe. The additional wind chill from the higher speeds during the bike leg would make the body colder, but core temperatures may rise slowly when running again, which would account for the timing of the HR accuracy.

      A chest strap is probably going to be a better option in those conditions.

    • John

      Great info.Never thought of it this way
      Though I am running in Greece with 15 degrees at a February night I’ll keep in mind the blood flow factor and the temperatures.

    • Dan

      Thank you Andrew.

      Since posting my own research has backed up your reply. You’ve described it perfectly.



  80. Aleander Momberger

    My initial watch used to be perfectly fine, but some weeks ago the Barometric altimeter started to go crazy showing constant changes in altitude. I got a replacement unit. It had worked properly for 4 days and then the same problem occured: the altimeter is all over the place on my peplacement device. Its going up and down from +20000m to -20000 within several hours.

    Is this problem known? is there a fix? Recalibrated everything several times. Same problem on sw-version 7.60 & 8.00. After reinitialization same problem. I wouldn’t want to get a 3. replacement..

    Since I have a lot oc custimization (activity-profiles and Data-field setups): Is there a possibility to transfer all the settings (i.e. activity-settings) on a new watch? Where is that settings file located?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Kari Jokela

      I have the 3rd unit now and it has worked for two days now ?. I have no trust on this though. I have been following discussions on the topic and I am extremely disappointed that Garmin keeps radio silence. That is a shame. I would have hoped a statement from DC too, but maybe I have missed it.

    • DC Dan

      Aleander, I had the same problem, altitude running from +65,000 feet to –1,200 in the same location. Try this – remove any non factory watch faces and compare your barometric reading to a local weather node to check your sensor (add Barometric Pressure as a data screen to an activity to make it easy to view) . In my case the third party watch faces were hosing things up. Removed them, did a reset, recalibrated, and now all’s fine. Also the Garmin logic in Auto mode tries to figure out if the barometric change is due to you changing altitude or the weather. This can be tricky on a long hill climb which can mimic a slow drop in baromometric pressure.

    • Just looked at the thread a bit, but hard to discern what’s going on as it’s been over the course of 8 months or so.

      I’d start with eliminating 3rd party apps first, and then go from there.

      As a general rule of thumb with any device from any company, I find that if someone goes through 3+ units in rapid succession, it’s almost always something specific to that person’s situation (environmental, settings, usage, etc…). Not blaming, just saying that’s the best place to start and kinda walk back troubleshooting from there. Certainly, there are the rare units with manufacturing defects (or the general 5/5S communication stack issue), but beyond that there hasn’t been much in the way of widespread issues.

    • Kari Jokela

      Thanks. If you take a while and look at the issue for instance in Garmin’s own discussion forum, you might notice that this may be epidemic. I live in North-Finland and it is cold and dry, but I would expect the device to cope with that. Others have similar experiences in other conditions, I have noticed. My previous unit went crazy at the 1st training session in the woods. I was once for a decade at the company within the same business and know something about the devices, but I wouldn’t like to go back to those as I find Garmins much more lucrative from spex point of view. And from their outlook. I have had long discussions with Garmin Finland and their service is great, but either they do not have a clue what the problem might be or they cannot admit that because it is that epidemic. I hope my present unit stands with my cross country skiing and MTM in these rare extreme conditions.

    • peppe

      i am on my second fenix 5 , and have exactly the same problem again. I am currently at 8915 mt of altitude according to the watch.
      Garmin at least here in Switzerland is very aware of the problem , they suggested replacement or to switch to 935… it looks like an issue with the metal case… this watch is of no use for people like me that use it especially for mountaineering activities

  81. EdB

    Altimeter Problems in 3 fenix 5 devices.
    I purchased a fenix 5 sapphire in mid-January, 2018.
    I repeatedly hit the problems of the altimeter being inaccurate by orders of magnitude: 65000+ feet and 32000+ feet elevation readings…and the down to negative 12000 feet (in areas of about 200 – 4000 feet above sea level)
    I already returned 2 fenix 5 devices that had this problem and will be returning the third one I currently have.
    I have the latest firmware, have done re-calibrations, multiple resets and do not have additional watch faces and apps loaded.
    I am very familiar and experienced with devices that use barometric pressure for altitude. I have never seen problems like this with other Garmin devices with barometric pressure based altitude on such as Garmin Edge cycling computers and the Garmin Montana handheld GPS units. Same with 10+ year old Suunto watches. I’m using the fenix 5 in same areas / use cases as the others devices.

    Garmin support did not acknowledge any specific known or widespread problems with the fenix 5 altimeters and offered to replace the device yet again, but after 3 strikes I’m done. It would be great if we could get some type of statement on where they are on the root cause analysis of this problem. It is not an isolated instance given that some people who care about altitude functionality are reporting it in various forums (including Garmin’s) and are also seeing it in replacement units…and there are likely others who do not take the time to post.
    Since altitude is one of the most important measurements and metrics for my activities, I will be returning this for good as I’ve lost confidence in the device and Garmin’s ability to solve this problem for this device.
    I’m disappointed because I’m otherwise very satisfied with the overall functionality and form of the fenix 5.

    • Kari Jokela


      My story is indeed similar and there are others. Besides that I’m disappointed with the product quality I am extremely sad with Garmin’s and its ambassadors’ silence. Anyone can see that this is epidemic, at least. I am not an engineer but have worked in a company making HRMs in North Finland and I know something about if the problem is in HW or in SW. I would be happy with a statement that we are working with the problem and you will get a solution as soon as it is fixed. Now we have to keep replacing units and listening before it to how the device has to be calibrated etc.


    • chris davis

      I had two Fenix 5’s with the same altitude issue. Switched back to 5x and it doesn’t accurately track my skiing speeds or HR. Skiing speeds ranging from 80-125mph on various firmware versions.

  82. Mark H

    My 2nd replacement Garmin Fenix 5 replacement with a bad pressure sensor. Both this one and the previous one quickly glitched. I do think static electricity is zapping the capacitance based pressure sensor causing it to go to a reading of 0 millibars over time. This one has been on my wrist for 3 days only. Temp is —-, barometer and altimeter are —-. Watch altimeter climb today for hours to over 65k feet and then it stopped working.

    • Kari Jokela

      And when you contact Garmin, they will either replace it without questions or, for the sake of formality and before the replacement, they give you the link to the calibrating instructions. Fair and reasonable.

    • Mark H

      Kari – I agree and feel Garmin has done and will do the right thing with respect to replacement. I would like to know what actual conditions are causing the pressure sensor to act the way it does. I have determined that the sensor is drifting (ie: it is still sensing pressure but for instance mine reads 589.1 mb (should be about 1015 or 1030 mb) so it has drifted a lot. If I increase pressure it responds (ie: increases) and the altimeter will drop or the barometer will increase. The problem is the ambient is jumping around much more than normal. Wearing a long sleeve shirt or removing a jacket (causes static electricity discharge) causes it to retreat from it’s real reading and creates what I call a new bias point that is much lower in mb. The watch tries to compensate by either increasing altitude or lowering barometer reading (depends on setting of watch and logic).

      This is an issue with the circuitry and logic of the pressure sensor – it appears gradually change the values even though the sensor reading is pretty sensitive. It reaches a new bias and if one calibrates with that incorrect bias, stability of measurement is ruined.

      Just while typing this with the watch on my arm it is down to 582.7 mb. A bad storm is 6 mb drop within an hour ….

      Living in Baltimore MD, the temperature outside is 55 degrees and the humidity is normal today. Even though most heated buildings are dry, the Fenix 5 pressure sensor should be able to withstand typical static discharge, but that is not the case with the 3 I have had. The first one was the least glitchy, this one is the most. Comparing serial #s, the first one was manufactured in April 2017, these in November 2017. They are over 90000 units apart in serial numbers, so I know that there has not been a change in hardware or manufacturing process with respect to the barometer.

      This may be a 3rd party problem – I am sure Garmin sources these from a manufacturer like Infineon – it is most likely the problem either with the sensor itself or the integration of the sensor into the device (ie: mechanical casing, electrical connections, power supply, data lines, logic, software drivers, etc.)

      Problem seems to have hit the 5, 5S, 5X and 935 as well as the 3HR all with varying degrees. 5 seems hardest hit.

      My Fitbit worn on the opposite arm still counts steps.

      I bought mine in December so I have a lot of time to see if Garmin figures this out. I love the watch otherwise (if I was not injured I would be out running, but since I cannot run I am doing stairs every day).

    • Kari Jokela

      Thanks Mark :-) Your analysis would indeed explain the issue. What I am still awaiting is Garmin’s statement, explanation or instructions on how to go around this. Coming from a similar background, I cannot understand or accept the radio silence.

  83. Lindsay


    That is a great review and info.

    I’ve had an unfortunate experience with Garmin using a Fenix2 and have not considered their products since.
    That watch would crash through a ride or a run. Switching from sport to sport in Multi mode, crashed. If it ran out of space, it’d crash and was very difficult to connect to PC and free up space.

    I went back n forth with Garmin while still under warranty and they were very reluctant at the time to help much or send me a new unit. Eventually they sent a refurbished unit only after they’d received the problematic unit.

    Unfortunately the same started happening with the old unit at which point I just gave up and decided not to look at Garmin again from a product standpoint and a customer service standpoint. It worked for 3 months prior, barely worked thereafter and won’t even hold a charge now. I’ve not touched it since last Spring 2017. Junk.

    So, having read this eval, I was wondering if anyone here had expressed similar issues with a Fenix 5 as I’m reluctant to fork out another $600+ (I’m in Canada) on a problem product and then deal with not-so-helpful support from Garmin


    • Lindsay

      This is another reason why I think Garmin is USELESS!

      Sign in to the online chat session, fill in details, click begin chat and I get this when the chat window pops up:

      Not Found The requested URL /livechat/chat_en_CA.html was not found on this server.

      I work in the software/hi-tech business and this is all appalling!

  84. Peppe

    Hi Ray ,first thanks for your work I read your blog since many years.
    I don’t understand though the environmental, usage , settings remark, I have had many ABC GPS watches and never had an issue with altimeter barometer .. I sent my second fenix 5 for RMA and currently using an old ambit vertical which has perfect altitude readings .
    Apart for that I really like the watch , but for me altitude datas are very important .

    • Kari Jokela

      It seems that this is not a “widespread issue” officially :-D

    • Environmental means the following:

      A) Specific to a person and how they use/treat the gear
      B) Specific to the region they’re using it in (such as weather that might include humidity/dry air/salty air/etc…)
      C) Specific to what the person might be wearing (such as specific pieces of clothing that have a higher likelihood of transferring meaningful static electricity)
      D) Some other random factor that’s unique to a given person’s day to day situation that causes and issue

      By and large, most non-software tech bugs of all products after the first month or two tend to fall into environmental type issues. Meaning, they’re harder to solve because it’s a unique thing to that person/environment that can’t be easily repro’d elsewhere.

      I’d specifically note the static electricity one as a very likely cause of breaking of altimeters. Certain clothing is far more likely to cause issues than other. For example, I know I’ve got one running tech shirt that for whatever reason always zaps me. Why? I don’t know. Some clothing expert could probably tell me…but I don’t know why that green shirt always does that.

      The reason we know it’s not widespread is the numbers just don’t support that. By now it’s a safe estimate that Garmin has probably shipped between 750,000 and 1,250,000 Fenix 5 units. Roughly (based on historical trending of Fenix 3 units and such while getting more popular). If this was a huge issue that had hundreds or thousands of unique comments on those threads, then I’d be more concerned.

      Instead, it’s still a totally sucky thing for those that run into it – but that means it’s not likely to be considered a widespread issue that everyone runs into. Obviously it sucks being on the wrong side of it, especially when it’s hard to figure out what causes it. But if a given person goes through 2-4 Fenix 5 units in a short timespan with the same issue, then that almost exclusively points to something unique about that person or their environment.

    • peppe

      Ray, far from trying to have a discussion with you on sport tech, you a guru and know well what you talking about , but i am not convinced on this one.
      i had many many gps ABC watches in the past 15 years, and never ever had such an issue where i would go from 15k mt to -32k.
      the reason why i think many people don’t complain about the altimeter out of the hundred of thousands who own a fenix 5, it’s probably because they do not use this specific function . I live in Switzerland and I use the altimeter of course :-) …
      the fact that Garmin itself on a phone call suggested to probably look at the 935 instead after a couple of RMA, to me looks quite obvious that they are aware of the issue.
      I have zero technical knowledge but I do have many years of usage and again never one of my previous polar suunto or garmin itself gave me such a problem.
      Still I like the watch and I hope the 3rd one will not have the same issue.

    • Kari Jokela

      Ray, your answer is fair, thanks. However, I cannot yet believe that this is not a bigger problem than you suggest. I have been using various Polar devices, and devices of another Finland based company because of some coop between those at some point of time in history and I never faced this. Further, if you design a device like Fenix 5, you simply have to take into account such environmental factors as you list. Fenix 5 is a device that should stand quite a lot in terms of environment and there are engineers who can reach that. I cannot make a hard claim but to my current understanding, Fenix 5 has design failure.

    • DC Dan

      Curious if these altitude problems are occurring in GPS or UltraTrac OR offline when watch is in Auto mode and it’s extrapolating altitude via pressure changes (which can be waaaay off)? Also not clear if these problem watches have checked sensor accuracy with known values like local weather nodes and topo maps. Apologies if this was already covered or maybe I’m completely missing something.

      My assessment as a first time Garmin customer and Fenix 5 owner is that the altitude problem, at least on my watch, seems to be the logic for differentiating whether pressure change is due to weather or altitude when watch is in auto mode. My barometer readings match the local weather node and calibrating altitude via GPS matches topo maps so sensors seem accurate.

      I’m going by the Garmin book for offline (no sat link) use – calibrating altitude via GPS and leaving watch on Auto mode. Problem is that watch makes assumptions about pressure changes – slow and its weather, fast and you must be moving. Generally this has held true for me provided I calibrate every day and keep moving (or I stay still and the barometer is steady). If I don’t calibrate for a few days my home/starting point altitude starts to drift up or down 50’ – 100’ which isn’t unreasonable given the crazy weather that comes through Wash DC. And overnight I can go +/- 50′ – 100′ while asleep so that’s obviously weather.

      When I first got my watch I too was getting +65,000 to -1,500 altitude swings. Removed non factory watch faces (I was getting button lag or no response on some functions), did a hard reset, recalibrated altitude and barometer via GPS and been fine ever since – when I calibrate at home I get the same altitude every time and high and low points on rides, runs, and drives are the same as well. But mix in some weather and long slow hill climbs I’ll get variations. Haven’t tried GPS or UltraTrack yet so maybe that’s where everyone is having trouble but so far all of my GPS calibrations have very closely matched topographical maps in the DC metro area.

      But if folks are using GPS or UltraTrac and getting +/- 65,000′ variations AND their sensors consistently correspond to known values (weather nodes and topo maps) then I’d agree something going on. Just not on my watch except when I had the wonky watch faces.

    • Aleander Momberger

      I think A) might be the cause for my problems. Here is my experience:
      Bought a fenix 5 last November. Everything awesome. After one month however, the fenix 5 froze, i.e. hung up during a long, cold trail. But it could reboot after 20min and continued recording. Same thing happened twice some weeks later during runs in very cold weather. And finally in mid January again the watch hung up while running but this time it never rebooted. I did not know better and simply tried the soft-reboot pattern and/or connecting to pc.. So I got a replacement. It had been working just some days and suddenly both the altitude- & barometer-drifting began followed by a temperature reading of “—“. Soon after the drifting began the watch hung up and was not rebooting, just like the previous watch. So I replaced it another time and the story repeated itself after a week with the 3. watch.
      Now, however, I’m happy with that 3. watch, as I can confirm that a hardreset will make the watch work again and all the sensor readings will be perfectly fine. I searched for different button-press combinations on the watch to do a hard-reset and was able to enter the Test mode, which showed everything is fine with the watch’s hardware. Now it’s been working perfectly fine for a week.

      Conclusion: The one constant thing on all the problematic watches has been a custom watchface. I’m not sure if the watchface really is the cause for the problem, but now I use the native face and had no issues so far. So if you happen to get the same sensor driftings/errors, do a backup before and try a hard reset. Hopefully it will work again. And get rid of the custom watchfaces.

      Another thing: I think the garmin support is very good. they replace the units quickly by new ones. So no complaints from my side.

    • Kari Jokela

      I have been trying to comment further, but obviously I am thown out. At least I cannot see my recent comments.

    • Kari Jokela

      The device shows you 2 kind of air pressures:

      1) Ambient Pressure (AP) which is the “true” figure and which can only be seen in training modes
      2) Barometric Pressure (BP) which can be seen in widgets and which is based on AP and calculated further based on weather etc.

      In my faulty devices, AP was all the time between — and a high figure such as 10 0000. I live at sea level and it should be always ca. 980 – 1050.

      If the AP is e.g. 20, the device assumes you are in the “moon” and you get a crazy high figure. If the AP is 100000, it assumes you are at the sea bottom. The figure of AP is the one to blame in this comedy.

      If you in such a crazy situation calibrate your altitude with GPS, you get the right altitude, but just for a very short moment. The device starts “correcting” the figure immediately and you are soon again in the space or on the sea bottom.

      Why the AP give crazy figures, I do not know. I hope it would be sw related, but I am afraid it is not. I think the engineers have simply ignored standard design steps what comes to testing static electrics tolerance. Now we have to avoid skiing in winter, wearing jumpers and keep washing the device in soap water every now and then.

      I would not dare to use their diving instruments before a fair explanation.

    • Kari – For some odd reason one of your comments got stuck in the trash bin which appeared to have a ripple-on effect for your duplicate variant attempts. Not really sure why, as there’s nothing in it that’s SPAM/Trash worthy. Odd. Anyway, found it and fished it out. Sorry about that.

      As the two previous commentators noted, I’d be curious if you have any custom watch faces or apps – and if so, if you’ve tried their steps. I totally get singular bad units, or even singular bad batches (or heck, even a few weeks of bad batches). But generally speaking when the same individual goes through three watches (especially from the RMA pool, which is the most random way possible of getting new watches), it almost always falls back to an issue that’s somehow unique to that individual.

      Not trying to place blame that it should be your problem to untangle – but rather, just trying to help troubleshoot.

    • Kari Jokela

      Hi again – I think one my faulty devices had an extra face, but at least the last one didn’t. It went crazy almost immediately. I have been thinking of what I do wrong or what circumstances may cause this, but the only thing I could say is the weather. It is dry and cold here. In winter and with the last faulty device, I did only xc skiing. Garmin asked me to test it for a while before the replacement – they wanted to have the file as well – and in those sessions I had my Edge 810 in the pocket and it gave right recordings. While the Fenix was at Garmin, I used my beta M400 and it gave right recordings. Also, I had the M400 on my wrist 24/7 those days exactly as I had my Fenix and M400 didn’t take schocks from anywhere. The AP / the respective sensor is the reason, but is it in the SW, HW or in some combination, I do not know.

    • Kari Jokela

      I have always got new devices as replacement

    • Paul S.

      Do you have any added ConnectIQ things on it at all, not just watch faces? Try taking them all off.

  85. Mark H.

    I observed ambient pressure (direct pressure read by sensor) jumping around. The sensor appears to skew its’ baseline (generally dropping) when exposed to static electricity. I believe the sensor is capacitance-based. The ambient pressure should somewhat match current barometric pressure compensated by altitude. The actual barometric pressure – altitude compensated (maybe with some temperature compensation.

    For me at a few hundred feet above sea level that number is usually a little over 1000 mb when the sensor is working correctly. Right now my ambient pressure is around 950mb but is fluctuating up and down (while inside a building). I get no measurement of climbing or going down 8 stories of stairs.

    When it works correctly I could do stair climbing sessions and see the 6 flights and 6 descents done twice on the elevation chart of the activity. I don’t get any flights anymore with this Fenix 5 (3rd one).

    This is definitely a widespread issue with the sensor (maybe bias gets messed up due to static discharge) or I am unlucky (3 for 3). Ruled out 3rd party apps this time.

    I tried warm water with mild detergent as Garmin mentioned. Helped but can’t get the sensor to ‘settle down’

    There is an ambient pressure connect iq widget that shows the true story of what is going on.

  86. Mark H

    I have also had my last couple attempts to post not take (tons of typing)… Echos exactly what Karl and others are stating about ambient pressure sensor …. this is after soaking the watch for an hour and it sitting on the shelf all night. Ambient finally is recovering.

  87. Mark H

    I have attempted multiple posts but they don’t seem to have made it here …. saw with with another person as well.

    Yesterday I did a hard reset of my Fenix 5. I also did a 30 minute warm water with mild detergent (per Garmin’s web site FAQ) soak. I paired with my phone, but have not added back any connect iq watch faces, widgets, data fields or apps. I let the watch sit overnight off of my wrist. This morning I placed the watch on and went about my daily routine (actually at a hospital where my daughter is ….). The altimeter and barometer are working within reason all day with no large retreats. I am not looking at ambient pressure, but looking at barometric pressure it is reading in the 1010+/- range and the altitude is maybe 150 feet off (I have not calibrated it) but responding exactly as the watch should. I climb 8 flights of steps and I see the altimeter respond fairly quickly and accurately. I go back down steps and see roughly the original value shown. I drove home tonight and the elevation change roughly was pretty decent (no random ascents or descents) and the altitude at my house was maybe 160 feet off. I did calibrate the altitude (leaving the watch in default auto-mode) and all seems ok. We do have a low pressure system over us and the barometer is about 999 mb, weather channel states 1000.3mb. Right now the sensor is pretty darn accurate.

    I don’t doubt the sensor is affected by static discharge, but maybe some connect iq widgets and/or watch faces are causing the sensor hub not to properly handle recovery from a glitch?

  88. John

    Are some of the Watch faces you download from GC throwing off these watches? In my case, I think it was really draining the battery, although I don’t know why. The watch face was pretty simple but had a steps counter and 1 or 2 other things.

  89. Alexander Momberger

    Here is a probably slightly offtopic question, but still, I hope you can help:
    I recently bought a PowerTap C1-Powermeter and I use it with my fenix 5. Everything works flawelessly and I already did several FTP tests. So I aim to train in powerzones and I’d like to show a smoothed %FTP- field in the fenix’s screen.
    All I can find, however, is an instantaneous FTP-field, which jumps around like crazy all the time, rendering this datafield totally useless. So is there a way to show the 3s/5s/10s %FTP-average like it is possible to be done for the absolute Power?

    Thank you in advance.

  90. Phil McGuire

    Yeah, throw me on the list of people with huge altimeter problems. Been going on since I got the unit, and I’ve gone back and forth on email, but based on what I’ve read on Garmins forums, they’re not acknowledging the problem. Today, I’ve been on quite the roller coaster ride today with this watch. With the exception of its inability to connect to my stages power meter, it’s been phenomenal, but the altitude issues are abysmal. Yes, it’s cold where I am right now. Yes, I wore a synthetic shirt skiing all day today. Yes, it probably generated static. But that’s what I bought the watch for. Skiing, and hiking, and biking and running. And I live in upstate NY, so it’s often cold. Shouldn’t the device function during these activities? My fenix 3 never experienced this issue under the same conditions.

    • jtoots

      I’m on that list too. My first Fenix 5 went awry within a month. Warranty, got another, that one went wacky after a couple weeks. Now they are sending me a 5x, which they say doesn’t have the same issues.

      Last week I went skiing… At the base of the mountain I was at 60k ft elevation, by lunch time I was at an amazing -520,000 ft.

    • chris

      Wow my best is 93,000 above sea level. Interesting that they gave you a 5X–did you ask for it or did they volunteer. I just soak mine every couple days–pathetic.

  91. cizi

    Guys, not sure about accuracy of this (Fenix5) unit.
    Nowadays I don’t mind how many steps, floor, sleep hours I did during the day, nowadays I am focused of what can bring me the watch during outdoor workout (run, trail run, bike, hike etc.) which I compared below.

    Two days ago I made with friend of mine 25 km of cross-country skiing and result was quite funny. He had Fenix3, I had Fenix 5 on one hand, Suunto Spartan Sport on the other. Summary. Distance plus/minus 1 km different, OK, I got it but speed, ascend/descent totally different.
    Watch – max speed – ascend – descent
    Friend’s Fenix3 – 180Km/h – 475m – 465m
    Mine Fenix5 – 50km/h – 480m – 501m
    Mine SSS – 24Km/h – 414m – 411m

    It was my second time on cross-country skiing and I am certainly sure that my speed was’t 50 km/h and I 100% sure that friend’s speed wasn’t 180 km/h . Then I import GPX files to the map and compare ascend/descent. Be surprised or not but SSS does not have barometric altimetr and cost half price compare to Fenix5 but has the smallest deviation from reality (only +/- 20m, Fenix* has something about 80m).

    Summary – to be honest if you probably have Fenix and don’t care about data (like me till now) you will be probably happy with featured watch series Fenix but if you focus on data accuracy a little bit, you find out that are quite huge differences. Not sure what watch should I keep if Fenix5 or SSS. Because Fenix 3 has been released in 2015 and Fenix 3 in 2017. From now it does 3 years and not match progress in data accuracy as I see…..

    If your read the whole post sorry from my English, I am not native speaker…

    • Aleander Momberger

      Dear cizi,

      I think your compairison is not really showing the whole picture.
      1. What settings did you use? Did you use ‘intelligent recording’? GPS + Glonass?
      2. Compairing max speed is tricky, as it might be caused by one singular spike/outlier, where the watch lost signal for a moment. I’d suggest to rather compare the average speed or max Lap speed.
      3. “Distance plus/minus 1 km” is waaay to big! This deviance indicates that one of the devices might have used a reduced sampling-rate (e.g. intelligent recording / ultra trac) –> see point 2.
      3. You are talking about the “real ascend/descend” and are referring to the suunto that does not have an altimeter at all. Just read Rainmakers explanation of elevation measurement. There simply is no “correct” measurement on a watch possible, neighter using GPS-based data nor the barometric altimeter. In general, barometric altimeters are said to produce more realistic numbers.

      In General, I am really pleased with my Fenix 5 exept for the already discussed altimeter behaviour. But ever since I deleted all custom watchfaces, I did not have that weird behaviour again so far. I have one issue with the Polar OH1, where it simply loses the signal constantly, but the Scorche Rythm+ works fine. Also, Powertap C1: zero problems!
      GPS accuracy:
      I tested/ compared multiple Fenix 5 units against Forerunner 235, 735XT, Polar M400, Samsung Note 5, LG G6 (both with Runkeeper, Strava, Runtastic) on a mix of open field, dense forrests and city streets.
      The fenix 5 was the best alongsde the two Forerunners & the Note 5 with Strava – both in terms of accuracy and consistancy. Also the recorded tracks were the ‘prettiest’ for those devices. I could not inspect any remakable difference between the Garmins.
      Overall, in the city no device was awesome (it’s due to the technology), in the open fields all were really good, but in the forrests the LG G6 was really the worst. Also, Runtastic is worse than runkeeper and Strava on both Smartphones (it might use a reduced sampling).
      The M400 compares very good with the Garmins in terms of GPS-accuracy. Your mileage may vary.

    • cizi

      Aleander, I can fill the gaps :-).
      1. I used just GPS (without Glonass). Tomorrow I would like to do some testing with Glonass on. Will see the diference.
      2. True story, but for MTB and skiing is quite useful information and these errors are appear quite often from my perspective (maybe Glonass ON will fix it).
      3. To be exact is 782m – no UltraTrak had been used.
      4. Will check this alti/baro issue here in the review…

      Maybe the point is that we are looking for minor issues. The fact is there are no too big differences in the comparison.

  92. RP

    From the review “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.”… since it’s written here, I can assume it’s a good idea?! I’ve had a F5X for a couple of weeks and although generally satisfied with accuracy, I’d love to do something that would improve it! How can this be achieved if you’ve missed the “first time ever” window? Should folks consider doing a factory reset and then going out with the watch again and following this procedure?

  93. K.O.

    Hi! Would you recommend the 5X for cycling navigation? As you would use a Garmin Edge? When you choose/create/upload a route does the display show clear directions? Thanks!!

  94. Kartik

    Hello, all. I’m on my 3rd wk of my new Fenix 5 Sapphire Edition. Everything works fine, except I get **no** smart notifications at all on my watch. None at all. Nada. Paired successfully to my iPhone8+ all day long. Bcos I’m injured currently, I have only done 1 bike ride, and the data looked ok – so not sure if anything else is faulty. Am just trying to figure out if (i) this is a known problem and hopefully Garmin will sort it out in the next firmware update, or (ii) i hv a faulty watch, or (iii) there is some setting trick either on my watch or on my phone that might fix this. Any advice will be greatly appreciated…

    • Kartik

      DCR/Tim Grose/Anybody?

    • Try restarting your phone oddly enough, usually does the trick.

    • Kartik

      Thanks, Ray.

      Partly worked – i now get notifications on my Fenix5 of ppl calling my ph. No notifications of text messages or anything else, though. Any other suggestions?

    • Kartik

      My Fenix5 has been deemed faulty and has been returned. Despite the heaps of comments on the forums about similar such faults as well as inconsistent GPS outputs, I’m still going to try and give it a go. Will wait for my replacement to arrive (hopefully soon). Also, for the record, Garmin support sucks spectacularly. Absolute poo.

  95. aben

    About to purchase a F5X

    Does it matter where you purchase it , for the maps. I.e. will I get a USA or EU only version of the maps and if so does it cost money to change? I travel worldwide so would hope I have worldwide access (former epix owner it was a major pain)

    can we expect an F6 soon?

    I am guessing a year into F5 they have ironed out many SW issues (Epix was a pain…. and Ugly….)

  96. frederic


    Can you tempo swim with this watch? ie. set you set a 25 sec rates per 25 m and have the watch hip every 25 secs?Frederic

  97. Ivo

    Hi guys, what material is back case od Fenix 5? Is it stainless steel or polycarbonate fibre? I have a nikal allergy, so I am worried about skin reaction. And, what would you recommend Fenix 3 hr or Fenix 5? I do cross fit, occasionally run, bike rides and hiking.

    • Andrew M


      Backing on the F5 series is stainless steel.

      I haven’t seen widespread reports of reactions to it, but if you have an existing nickel allergy, you would probably be safer getting with the Forerunner 935 (which is basically the F5 in a plastic case).

  98. Peppe

    Ok , on 3rd fenix 5 since a couple of weeks .. all working fine , I am using a Chinese metal band bought on Amazon . This to me confirm the issue with static electricity.. not the best fix, but at least it’s working properly now. Maybe Garmin should consider sending a metal or leather band to the people having this issue .

    • chris

      I have the leather band on mine and it worked for three days(after a soak) and then the altimeter freaked out as usual so it doesn’t help.

    • Kartik

      What *is* this static electricity issue that has been talked about? What is the implication/consequence? And how have you fixed it?

  99. Alex

    What do you suggest is the best way to capture indoor rowing and weight training with the fenix 5? Is there a good training category for those, or do you have to pretend it’s an indoor cycling activity or something?

    Did you find the OHR to be somewhat accurate during those activities? I have found that wrist-based monitoring is poor for weight training, and completely useless for rowing (tested with the vivosmart HR+), and it’s best to pair with a chest strap (which the HR+ annoyingly doesn’t’ do).

  100. Thomas Frank

    Hi Ray

    First of all thanks for all your great work!

    I can see there has been a lot of diskussion about the Fenix 5 and it’s issues with GPS. You have pointed out that people should show data, and not just point the “GPS issue” without that.

    Some days ago I did a run with a Forerunner 620 on my right arm, and a Fenix 5 on the left. Both of them were not covered by fabric. The end result was 29.69 km on the Fenix 5 and 30.01 km on the Forerunner 620. Roughly 1% off. Thats of course a concern, but who knows which one were correct. I did notice some problems when near to small buildings and trees with the Fenix 5.
    Looking at the attached screen dump, it’s very clear that the Fenix 5 has a lot of problems with Instant Pace compared to the 620. Without a Foot Pod, I will consider that useless.
    When I compare to the run you did with the Fenix 5 on the 22nd of March 2017, your Instant Pace and general GPS performance seems acceptable.
    Let’s say during production of the watches, there are differences in the performance of the GPS antenna and/or GPS circuits, could Garmin be tempted to send the best performing watch to you?

    Did you compare a retail Fenix 5 with the test unit that you received from Garmin?

    I do not question your reviews, I just want to find out why/if my unit is performing bad compared to my old 620.

    The two runs can be seen here:

    620: link to connect.garmin.com

    Fenix 5:link to connect.garmin.com

    Best Regards


    • I currently have three Fenix 5 units, none of which were sent by Garmin, just normal retail channels. I haven’t seen much of a difference in terms of instant pace there to be honest. I’ve used it in other reviews since then (I think some Suunto reviews last summer/fall), though at the moment I don’t have any quick links to reference.

      I suspect instant pace stability may come down to some aspect of running form (or arm swing or something). I rarely have issues with instant pace on any watches (except the Apple Watch Nike+ edition). It’s not clear to my why some people have certain issues with instant pace and others don’t. :-/ I’d be interesting re-doing your test and swapping the units (left for right), it’s well known that even in GPS accuracy testing that can impact things (to which I generally say – ‘Shrug, if that’s the determining factor, then we’ve got other issues’ – but still, worthwhile noting).

      As for distance accuracy – 1% is honestly pretty darn close. That’s well within spec. Once you get to that level, you basically have to overlay the two tracks and nitpick which one is correct or not.

  101. Thomas Frank

    Hi ray

    Thanks for your reply.

    I did a small test on a 1040 m round course (always running on the inside lane) this evening like this:

    – Approx. 2.3k done anti-clockwise running on the left side of the road. Fenix 5 on the left arm and Forerunner 620 on the right arm

    – Approx. 2.1k done anti-clockwise running on the left side of the road. Fenix 5 on the right arm and Forerunner 620 on the left arm

    – Approx. 1.2k done clockwise running on the right side of the road. Fenix 5 on the right arm and Forerunner 620 on the left arm

    The results can be seen on the attached picture.

    My conclusion:

    The Forerunner 620 performs perfect no matter what arm or direction of my run.

    The Fenix 5 has big problems at soon as the watch is close to the trees or buildings. The performance on the right arm is only acceptable when the watch is on the “away” side.

    If it’s my specific Fenix 5 that has a problem, or a general one is hard to know without another Fenix 5 to test with, but still compared to a old 620 it sucks.

    Best Regards


    • the5krunner

      yep, many people found the same kind of thing. the f5’s GPS is not commensurate with the price tag of the watch.

      you might (or might not) find GLONASS help with trees and buildings.

      If power meter accuracy is important for cyclists then gps accuracy is important for pace for runners

    • Thomas Frank

      It’s not open water season yet, but I am very worried that the GPS accuracy will be very limited with that watch there also.

      I will see what Garmin Support has to say about it.

    • As the5krunner noted, try toying with the GLONASS settings. For some people it makes it substantially better, for others, it actually hurts. I typically always run with it on, on most watches – and usually get pretty good tracks.

  102. Ian Porter

    I’ve been battling with Garmin for months over the ANT+ issue and finally got them to swap my watch

    now I can’t be sure it’s got the revised antenna design BUT it’s infinitely better

    10 miles run with Stryd and not a single drop out

    10 miles ridden on my Tacx trainer and while not 100% it’s nearly there and needs a bit more testing – certainly a huge improvement

    still too early to be sure it’s ‘fixed’ but looks promising

    for reference the new one has a higher serial number – 5361113xxx

    • Ian Porter

      Stryd on my previous F5

    • Ian Porter

      Stryd on the new F5

      (drops in power are from waiting for other runners to catch up and not ANT+ dropouts)

    • Naomi

      Hi Rainmaker , hi folks,
      one of the user of 5x has got fissures on optical sensor after 6 months use. Is there anybody who has made same experience?

      here at 0.38 one can see the damage:

      link to youtube.com

    • Naomi

      Hi Rainmaker , hi folks,
      one of the user of 5x has got fissures on optical sensor after 6 months use. Is there anybody who has made same experience?

      here at 0.38 one can see the damage:

      link to youtube.com

    • Naomi

      ps Picture of the damage.

      Herzlichst! Naomi

    • Ryan

      Wow, this does look promising, power drops out are the bane of my life with this watch.

      Which software is that that shows all the drop outs?

    • Ryan

      I’ve signed up to use DC’s data analyzer tool (pretty funky tool). I still can’t see the power drop outs but can see my average power over different lengths of time during a ride with the 510 vs the Fenix 5. Interesting to note that the shorter time frames (under 5 minutes, there is hardly any difference (not what I expected but the averages could be getting taken from different points during the ride). But at the 11 minute mark the difference between the average power is largest and at the 20 min mark (Vo2 testing mark) there is a 10w difference :-(

      See the file:
      link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

    • Ryan

      And another ride which shows the Fenix 5 substantially lower under the 30s mark but then gets higher for the next minute.

      link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

  103. Amaury

    During a workout can HR data be shared through Bluetooth to Android third party apps like Endomondo or Samsung Health for example?

  104. Kiersten Kotronis

    So now for the real question.
    I have had a fenix 3 since they came out, and used it for tracking just about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.
    But it has had the battery drain now for 8 months and i’ve tried every fix I could find,( including battery replacement) and i’m fed up. (so no need to get into that here)
    Id like the optical HR, more for day to day monitoring, but obviously also for activity HR, and I have been wanting the Fenix 5 for months but seeing that it has its own set of issues I have not been able to pull the trigger and get one.
    Do I keep holding out or just get it? Anyone have one, using it every day, for a range of activities and locations and use it flawlessly?

    • Ryan

      I too had a Fenix 3 and I loved it (although, early on it had some GPS issues but they seemed to get resolved). I purchased the Fenix 5, had a faulty watch (just stopped working) then got another unit (whilst I was waiting for a replacement, I bought a Fenix 3 (at a great price). When the replacement came, I was not sure which watch I wanted to keep, pros and cons for me:

      Fenix 5 over Fenix 3:
      Form factor is better, I like the 24/7 HR (although, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, I always use a strap when doing any ‘real’ exercise like running or riding (even on the stationery trainer as optical HR was way way off at times)).
      Screen and colours are better.
      Splits activity into Aerobic and Anaerobic.
      CONS: Only one.. CONNECTION issues. It drops out from my phone all the time when riding, constant buzzing on my wrist as it connects and disconnects.. So I turn Connection off most of the time so not a deal breaker.. The big issue is connection to my Power meter, it drops out all the time and the way GARMIN deals with this is it gives you an average or estimated power for the period during which there was a drop, this is fine if you are doing a long 20 min steady state effort, the real issue is on shorter efforts (up to 5 minutes), the power can be 20-40% understated, this is massive and means if I do any interval work and want to look at my power output, I need to use the file from my 510 (not a biggie but I try keep tabs of my Vo2 max etc whch is calculated in the watch.. So dissapointing it is using tarnished data for the calculation). This is was never an issue with the Fenix 3, it had great connection with my powertap wheel all the time. And even swapped between bikes seemlessly (I have a couple of powertap wheels) without having to reselect them as I need to now.
      Even when using the KickR at home, I have to take my watch off and place it on the frame so it can be closer to the wind trainer and cut down on disconnections. Frustrating to say the least.

      Anyway, sorry for my ramblings, in short, the Fenix 5 is awesome if you are not fused with inaccurate power data (unless there is a power unit that connects flawlessly with the Fenix 5? It defo isn’t stages, the Vectors?). Although, you could get the Fenix 5x (same size as Fenix 3) which apparently has better connection due to chip used which should eliminate the frustrations I’ve had whilst trying to love the watch whole heartedly.

  105. Andrew M

    Satellites drift slightly in their orbits, and the GPS signal includes an almanac of the latest orbital data and ionospheric conditions. Having access to this latest orbital data allows your GPS to acquire an accurate positional fix faster and from fewer satellities.

    This almanac is being continually sent, but due to the slow data transmission rates of GPS, takes about 12.5 minutes to download. Each time you activate the GPS, the watch will use the last almanac it had, and if you use your GPS regularly, this is fine. But on first use (or after a hard reset), if you haven’t used the GPS for more than a week, or if you have moved more than a couple of hundred kilometers from your last GPS location, then that almanac is no longer relevant, and it will take a bit longer to get a fix.

    There is no single “window” to get the almanac, it is just more important if your watch doesn’t have the relevant one already downloaded.

  106. peppe

    nothing , 3rd watch altimeter still not working .. useless sent it back , after 3 RMA with fenix 3 and 2 with fenix 5 I think I am done with garmin .

    • DC Dan

      On the Fenix 5 altimeter issue, I have to agree with Ray’s previous comment that multiple RMAs point more to user behavior than a widespread Garmin defect.

      I had the exact altimeter problems many are describing with my new F5. However, I solved them by removing all non factory watch faces and widgets, hard reset, confirming barometric sensor accuracy with local weather node (it was spot on), and manually calibrating altimeter and barometer elevation (use a topo map or Google your location). I manually calibrate each AM and the watch is fairly accurate throughout the day’s activities. But if I leave it for a few days it will drift but not by much. GPS is about 80/20 on getting a known altitude – in my NW DC backyard which is 230 ft GPS will sometimes give me 260 ft maybe 20% of the time.

      An hour ago I calibrated my altimeter and barometer altitude to 230 ft on the 1st floor of my house. I am now sitting upstairs and the altimeter is reading 243 ft which is pretty close. Only problems I’ve had is GPS inaccuracy downtown (common due to signal bounce off buildings) and some minor altitude swings when crazy weather hits DC.

      The F5 isn’t perfect, Garmin logic in determining whether pressure changes are due to altitude change or weather change can give some inaccurate readings but not the crazy +65K results I was getting with 3rd party watch faces.

      It’s possible you got 3 defective watches in a row with bad sensors but I’d suggest trying my drill (factory faces & widgets, hard reset, confirm sensor accuracy, manual calibration of altitude) and a daily calibration in the AM before you start your day or before each activity.

    • Ivo

      Mine F5 has correct altimeter, I happen to work on a Power Plant were we have correct info on elevation, and my F5 is with 1-2 meters always, so for my needs that is good.
      Barometer also works, BT connection great, only I have some issue with battery, it drains 9% per in watch mode and 12-15% with workouts and some GPS, but overall I am very pleased.
      Kind regards

  107. Juri

    Hey Ray,

    in your 2 hour sit down you had at the Connect IQ Summit, that included talking about the vector 3 problems, can you shed some further light into the Fenix 5 situation? How is their roll out going with the improved antennas that was found in the FCC document? Are they exchanging units for the new revision? Thanks!

    • I don’t believe there was any change with Fenix 5 units and the antenna. I believe people are misunderstanding what they are seeing in FCC documents.

    • Ian

      HI ray

      I think you’re wrong go on this one

      Having read the FCC report in detail it clearly states it is a redesign of the antenna and the power output has significantly increased

      I have just had my watch replaced and the new one is a world appart from the original in terms of a ANT+ connections

      I haven’t experienced a single drop out with the new watch

    • Perhaps, but Garmin has been super clear (even as recently as last week), that they didn’t make hardware component changes to the Fenix 5/5S (which is what’s required). Given that would have solved issues for folks, I’m reasonably sure they would have mentioned it as part of my conversation (but then, perhaps not).

      It’s possible there’s something else at play, but as for the FCC pieces, again, I don’t think it’s what people think it is.

  108. Omar A

    First of all, thanks for the wealth of information. Yesterday on my ride, my 5X kept telling me that it calculated my wheel size. Literally, every time I wanted to see where to turn next on the course, all I saw was that message. Any idea how to fix it?

    • Paul S.

      Set the wheel size manually and it should shut up. (If you have more than one bike, use a different speed sensor on each one, since the wheel size is attached to the sensor.) It’s always been mysterious how often Garmin devices recompute the wheel size, but I know from experience that they can screw it up, and that’s why I always set mine manually.

    • Omar A

      I thought I had done that already. This is the first time I’ve seen that message and I’ve been riding with that watch for months. Perhaps it got wiped out with a recent update. I’ll put it in again. Thanks Paul!

  109. JayDee

    I have Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and want to buy Fenix 5, which I would use for mtb and other activities and Bolt would be for road bike only. When I synchronise workouts from Bolt to Garmin Connect will the HR data synchronise to Fenix 5 so that it can show regeneration etc.?

    • No such magic unfortunately.

      Heck, that doesn’t even work within the Garmin ecosystem (yet). It was slated to roll-out about two weeks ago, but has slid till early-mid June now.

    • Jan Dvořák

      Thanks for the reply. It makes my mind easy that it’s not possible (yet) even between different Garmin devices.

  110. Ihab

    Whenever I did open water summing, it did not show in my personal record. Any advice why this happen?

  111. Ihab

    Whenever I did open water swimming, it did not show in my personal record. Any advice why this happen?

  112. Ghorgorbey


    I’m interested by the Fenix 5X… but I was wondering if new product (Fenix 6x ?) could come in the next months, and then maybe wait for buying it.
    Any news about this?

  113. Josie

    Hi There. I’ve read a few reviews now but haven’t been able to find anything in detail on how the watch performs and what specific data is available on paddle sports, specifically kayaking. Most of these multi-sport watches seem to support stand up paddling boarding and rowing modes, but not kayaking. Is there really any difference between these modes anyway in terms of what they measure, and could I just use one of these modes whilst kayaking? Kayakers are usually interested in speed (of course), cadence or stroke rate, and distance per stroke. Is it possible to get these metrics with a Fenix 5 (or other Garmin watch)? If so, do you need to purchase an additional separate accessory or sensor in order to measure these? Thanks very much.

  114. Scott S Jarvis

    I recently upgraded to the Fenix 5 after my Fenix 2 quit uploading to GC. In the pool swim mode, it was fairly easy to switch the Fenix 2 between logging drill sets, i.e. kick sets and normal swim intervals by simply pushing the start button, that does not appear to be the case with the Fenix 5. I tried the procedure Garmin’s online owners manual stated without success either.

    Can someone out there please tell me how to switch between drill sets to normal swim intervals? Thank you.

    • Joe

      When in swim activity, use the down button to scroll through the several swim fields, including drills and the normal swim intervals. Lap to start drill for example, lap to finish drill, then hit the down button to move back to regular swim interval.

  115. Alex

    Can you turn off WiFi?

  116. Alex

    Can you turn off WiFi? I bought a unit with wifi by accident and do not want to use it.

    • Colin Steinke

      Yeah. You can turn it off. It’s only going to sync with a known wifi network as it is, not any random one.

  117. DrBennyB

    Out of interest, what do most people use to analyse their data? I have the 5X with the Tri/Swim HRM’s and so far have been using Connect and Strava Premium…. but nothing really presents my data in a way, I ( a novice but physiological data junkie) can really use to help with my training etc. I do not have a coach, and am just a sports enthusiast – albeit I do try and do cycle sportive and ironman competitions…..

    Would be really interested in peoples opinions/thoughts.

  118. Petrus de Klerk

    Hi Ray.

    I have been following this discussion thread for quite some time as I am in the market for a Fenix 5 (as an upgrade from my current Suunto Ambit 3 Run) but am torn between the 5X and 5 Saphire editions.

    I heard rumours from a Garmin rep at the Two Oceans Expo in March that there might be updates coming to the regular models that might add the “maps” functionality to all the Fenix 5 iterations (the “S”, “Regular” and “Saphire”).

    1. Do you know if there is any truth to this (is it even possible from a software/hardware point of view)? and
    2. Does Garmin have an ETA for the Fenix 6 (or whatever they will be calling the new model)?

    As always, thanks for being such a rad resource!

    • I think I can answer for Ray

      1. No the 5 and 5S don’t have the storage of the 5X so never going to happen, remember there is only one group of people who lie more than salesmen and that’s young males with their manhood in a young ladies mouth.

      2. Based on Garmin’s trend of a two year cycle then expect an announcement January 2019 and product around March 2019. Remember Ray will be under an NDA so even if he had one on his wrist now he couldn’t tell you.

      Get the 5X it’s fantastic and the maps are well worth it if you ever walk/run/ride somewhere you don’t know.

  119. Earl

    Fenix 5 v Fenix 5 Sapphire – is it worth getting the latter for WiFi?

    • Phil

      Hi Earl.
      £90.00 difference between them.
      Free extra £44.99 Yellow Silicone QuickFit band included with Sapphire version. (Make sure you get one.)
      The WIFI feature is poorly integrated.
      The strengthened glass on the standard versions is quite tough also.
      I bought the Sapphire.
      If you don’t want the Sapphire concider the Forerunner 935
      The choice is yours.

  120. Jesper Fog

    Regarding the Training Status feature which I think is pretty cool. It shows on the watch as well on the Phone. Does anybody knows that is I have to use the Fenix 5 for all sports to have a correct score, or if data captured on my Edge 520 can be used to calculate the score aswell ? (just so I avoid having to use both the Fenix 5 and the edge for cycling)

  121. Daniel Cox

    Hi Ray – I’ve recently had issues uploading swim workouts from Garmin to Strava. It seems the HR data is not transferring accross the two platforms. This seems to be a recent thing (last few months) as it was syncing ok previously when I first bought the product. I’ve had no problems with uploading swim workouts with HR from my Suunto Ambit 3 so must be a Garmin-Strava thing.

    Just wondered whether you had any insight into this… I realise it’s a Third-party issue but not really seen it mentioned anywhere else.


    • My guess is that you’re using the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM?

      I don’t belive Strava ever fixed the issue where they aren’t properly handling the data within the file. It’s covered with the ANTfs standard, and most other platforms do it right. It’s basically because behind the scenes when you use the HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM straps it technically downloads the HR data after the fact when you save your activity. So the HR data gets appended to the file like an appendix section. Apps have to know how to properly handle that, but that’s actually been defined for well over a decade now.

    • Daniel Cox

      Hi Ray,

      Cheers for the reply. Yes, I am using the HRM-TRI version. I don’t suppose you know of any plans to correct this glitch?? It is kind of annoying as the product has been out for over a year now and you want to see all the data you’re recording.

    • Given it’s been going on for far longer than the Fenix 5 (since the FR920XT actually), I’d say the chances are low. Other companies have no problem handling the data from it…definitely a Strava issue.

  122. Piotr

    At the beginning of the article you mention that the Chronos series will get all the fenix 5 soft updates.
    Can anyone confirm that? Will the Chronos operate Bluetooth speed/cadence sensors?

  123. Mario

    Garmin are just about to release their Fenix 5 plus models just over a year after the release of the original Fenix 5, 5X and 5S. We will see the Fenix 5S plus, the Fenix 5 plus and supposedly the 5X plus as well (2019 you might get a Fenix 6).

  124. Vincent

    Hello, i have a question on yoyr review of the fenix 5, to quote you:

    « 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 »

    Could you expand on your comment of the fact that you say getting the sapphire lens might in theory prevents scratches but not the case in reality?! It seems like a pretty expensive option (yeah you also get wifi). Thanks!

    • Andrew Shardlow

      I had an F3HR which had saphire. It reduces contrast on an already difficult display so gave it to my son who has better eyesight. I prefer my standard F3 with plastic. It hasnt scratched despite serious use (my old 920 is unblemished too). I have seen a youtube video of someone taking a drill to it with little effect. I think saphire is just a way to upsell. The only issue is it attracts oil from your hands. A quick wipe and its crystal again. Odd to drop WiFi. Even the amazfit has it.

    • Aleander Momberger

      Hey Vincent,

      I have the standard fenix 5 and I love it, despite some connection issues. IMHO WiFi would be cool, but I can definitly live without it! Sapphire Glass is great, but again, definitly not necessary for me, because I simply put on a cheap tempered Glass protector. It looks excellent and can be replaced easily and cheaply. So, even if I would have a Sapphire edition I would use the Glass protector, just to double-secure.. I managed to damage the Protector twice and had to replace it. I’m not sure if the Saphire would have survived the accidents..

      BTW: there is an update around the corner: fenix 5 ‘plus’. So wait till the end of June for any buying decisions

  125. Doogie

    New F5 user here with a quick question. This morning, I paired the F5 to my local gym spin bike which uses Stages. The F5 paired fine and picked up all the Power data from the Stages with no issues. What the F5 didn’t pick up is the Speed and Distance data being transmitted from the Stages. When I checked my watch those two fields remained blank…everything else worked just fine. Any thoughts on how to get my speed and distance into the mix?

  126. mklengel

    I ordered a F5x (not arrived yet) and think about the planned obsolescence of 5-6 years. It seems possible to replace the battery in a F3 (3rd party). Is there a way to replace the battery in a F5x? Garmin doesn’t change the battery according to a Google search.

  127. Jackson Cheng

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve had a Fenix 5 for about 3 weeks now. I have started experiencing the Ant+ drops when using my Stac Zero with Powermeter. I tried switching to the Stac’s Bluetooth Channel, and while my watch can detect/find it, it won’t connect to it. I tried powering off both the trainer and the watch and reconnecting, but it hasn’t worked.

    Any ideas? As far as I know the bluetooth channel of the Stac shouldn’t be connected to anything else, as the Fenix 5 is the only device I own that it should be able to connect to (I replaced a 910xt), and I never connected it to my phone (I’m on iOS and they currently only have an android app).


    • Hmm, that’s odd. One thing to try is to pair the watch directly next to the transmission pod of the Stac zero in Bluetooth Smart mode. Often times things may have limited pairing distance, but then work just fine after that at a further distance.

    • Paul S.

      I’d also check the iPhone (Settings -> Bluetooth). Maybe you have some other app that can pair with a Bluetooth power meter, and maybe it did.

  128. Jeremy

    Beta version 9.53 enables Galileo! Finally!

    • Scott

      Will the addition of Galileo make any difference with the Fenix 5 or Forerunner 935? GPS is already pretty good with the 935.

    • Andrew

      Unlikely. There has been a lot of hype about Galileo and confusion between single and dual frequency. Only the former is supported. I don’t think there are that many satellites yet. It basically provides a few more satellites which might be useful when there is a restricted view of the sky. It wont overcome the problems with the exo antenna design apparent in the Fenix series, particularly the 5 plus. The FR935 is currently probably the best choice of Garmin watches from a GPS standpoint. I had an FR735xt which produced supernaturally good tracks. Shame it was no good for navigation for other reasons.

  129. Brent

    Any hunches on Amazon Prime Day???? They were already on Amazon discounted in June…..

    My military post exchange has both on sale right now…. Fenix 5 for $429, and 5X for $529. Trying to speculate cost on Prime Day.

  130. JVC

    hi there, do you know any reason why my swim leg tracking map is missing during multisport (triathlon) tracking? My fenix 5 manage to record the multisport with timing & speed and GPS map for my cycling & running except the swim leg, the swim leg map is missing :(

    Please help, thanks.

  131. Manev

    Amazon Prime Day: EUR 309.99 for 47mm Fenix 5 silver at amazon.de

  132. Meus

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for you in depth research, helps me alot!
    What I can’t seem to find is information of the (usable) liftespan of this watch. Is it easy to get 5 years of pleasant use out of the Fenix 5, even though the plus is out already?

    Another question: I travel alot around the globe and I’m interested in the navigation feature. Do you think the navigation by compas on the fenix 5 is good enough? Lets say I’m in a rainforest and would like to return to my campsite…


    • We probably won’t know for another 4 years, whether the Fenix 5 ‘lasts’ 5 years, since it’s only been out a bit over a year.

      That said, there are a lot of people that do use their Garmin watches for 5+ years. They might not visit this site that often, and certainly some people kill their units before that point, but one only needs to line-up at a race start to see plenty of much older vintage Garmin watches still kicking it.

      And while Garmin typically stops releasing new feature firmware updates after about 2ish years (occasionally 3 years for some units), they do tend to keep releasing any major bug-type break updates in the 3-4 year range. After that point it’s unlikely anything would impact it to keep operating except it being killed in a bad way.

      I’ve had no problems using the compass to navigate back, plenty of people do it daily.

  133. James Jetmar

    How does the Fenix 5 feel while sleeping. I have the Vivoactive 3 and wear it 24 7. I want to do the same with the Fenix, but am worried that it just won’t be as comfortable. Anyone have any experience with using it all day and night? Thanks

    • James Sloan

      I wear my Fenix 5x 24×7 and I have a relatively smallish wrist. No issues. I love my Fenix 5x

    • Andrew

      You can’t feel it in your sleep unless you are dreaming and then its hard to judge! (-; Seriously though, I didn’t like the feel of the F5+. It seemed quite heavy and the reduced diameter (compared with the F3) and relative thickness made it feel like an appendage and not part of you. Most GPS watches are better. The exception would be the Ambit 3 Peak which is huge but that watch is awesome for other reasons.

  134. JB

    Hi, to get something clarified… I’m looking at the Fenix 5 – not the plus as it has features I don’t need/use.

    1 question: if I buy an F5 today, are there still the “connectivity” issues or did that get solved in the meantime? Or will it never get solved because it’s a hardware thing and not software?


    • Jeremy

      The connectivity issues in the Fenix 5 were never resolved. As you mentioned, it’s a hardware issue.
      I believe the 5x and 5s work better than the standard 5. It’s hit or miss. My standard 5 is fine with bluetooth connectivity, but the Ant+ connectivity absolutely sucks.

  135. Ed G

    First off, thanks for the great reviews. I haven’t bought a watch yet without consulting ayour site first. I have a tech question for you. For some reason my Fenix 5 stopped recording calories and therefore training effect. After resetting the watch these came back. My question: do you have any idea on how I can go back and get the “lost” data back into Garmib connect? I know it’s there as it is recorded on Strava (calories). I have tried deleting the activities from Connect and releasing them but that hasn’t worked. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

    • I’m not aware of any way to recalculate it unfortunately. :(

      They’re calculated at the completion of an activity, and without that data, it’s kinda firing a blank.

  136. O Sanders

    Hi there! Firstly, thanks for all of the great information! I recently purchased the fenix 5s and took it out on a couple of hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The first day I had it on ultratrac mode and realized how off the mileage was with that mode. The second day I had it on GPS + Glonass and it still seemed pretty off (a couple miles over ~12 miles total). I do a lot of my running on trails and so i’m trying to figure out why the 5s doesn’t seem to be that accurate in the mountains. Have you taken the 5s on mountain trails? Curious what your findings were.

    • Phil

      I assume you’ve let your device soak for at least 20 minuets. By soaking I mean putting your device outside with a clear view of the sky, start an activity like Run and just leave it for 20-30 minuets.
      If you’re hiking amongst those mile high trees that will cause problems as the GPS signal bounces off the trees.
      If your hiking in vast open spaces there shouldn’t be a problem.
      This might sound daft but you could try turning Glonass off, this works for some people.
      Hope this helps.

    • Andrew

      I think there are fundamental issues with Garmin’s patented exo-antenna used on their high end metal cased watches. It needs a clear view of the sky to work and a few trees, hills or valley sides will derail it. You are better off with a plastic case like on the 935 or 735. I had a 735 and it was particularly good (though navigation sucked for other reasons). It is a real shame as the Fenix watches are otherwise good. The bottom line is however they are GPS watches with a substandard GPS.

  137. keith sheridan

    I can’t get the all day Heart rates to work anyone had this problem.

  138. Scott B.

    Questions about my Fenix 5X – accurate distance tracking for hiking (using the Hike activity) and extending battery life. On two recent hikes the recorded was way higher than the actual mileage. Specifically, I did a hike in the Tetons that was 7 miles with 5,000 feet elevation gain, but the 5X measured it at 12.10 miles and 4,741 feet gained (the elevation gain is probably correct). I also did the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim which is 24 miles, but the 5X measured it at 34.57 miles which is again way off (elevation gain/loss looks accurate at 5873 gained and 4564 lost). Any idea what might be causing this? GPS is set on Normal and the watch had full GPS connectivity at the start of both hikes. Given the steep elevation gains, should I use the Climb activity instead? Also, is there a way to go back and scrub the data to correct the distance mistakes?

    My second question has to do with battery life. Both of these hikes seriously depleted the battery. Any suggestions on extending battery life for long hikes like these with multiple days in the backcountry?


    • Andrew

      There are devices better suited to hiking such as the Ambit 3 Peak which has very good GPS accuracy, distance measurement and great battery life. The exo-antenna on Garmin’s high end metal cased devices is poor and degrades badly if there isn’t a good view of the sky (trees, hills, valleys etc…). You might improve this by adding in Glonass or Galileo but that will hit batter life. Using a different activity will make no difference unless it has different GPS settings. The 5x and 5plus series have maps (whoopy do). I am not bothered by that. I take a Mio bike computer with maps on and switch it on and off as needed. It is rarely if ever needed. The bigger screen is much easier to read. Following a trail with the Ambit is a breeze as the trail is really clear, stable and auto zoom actually works (c.f. Garmin’s broken attempt). If you are hiking there is no reason not to carry a battery pack. link to amazon.co.uk

  139. Brandan K.

    Hey Ray. Do you think there is a chance that we might see a price drop on the Fenix 5 as we get later into the season? I am on the fence with regards to picking up a new watch this year (current Fenix 3 user).

    • frankis

      I just picked up a fenix 5 after my fenix 3 died a few weeks ago. If they all function like this one, I would absolutely not recommend this watch. I have never seen the issues I am having with signal drops with both my Quarq Riken and my Wahoo kickr that I am seeing with this device. I don’t see these drops with my Edge, and didn’t see them with my Fenix 3. It’s borderline unusable. The numbers I got from both my F5 and my edge 810 was dramatically different during a recent race, again, behavior I’ve not seen before.

    • The Fenix 5 actually went on sale last November, so I’d be surprised if we don’t see that again.

    • Jeremy

      Welcome to the Fenix 5 connectivity issue. This is a well known hardware defect, which is resolved in the Fenix 5 PLUS models.

      If you have the ability to return it, do it before it’s too late.

    • frankis

      Yeah, I wept as I read through the comments below Ray’s review last night. My F3 sapphire (non-HR) was so solid for 3 years, and unfortunately died just before a race, so reviewing the review here I pulled the trigger on the F5. Thankfully, that was 2.5 weeks ago, and I bought it at REI.

      Still annoyed at the price creep that I have the privilege of experiencing when I upgrade to the plus this weekend, and disappointed in Garmin’s response to breaking a feature that a significant segment of their user base buys their watches for in the F5.

    • Jeremy

      In my opinion, the 5 plus is so incredibly overpriced . I know price is subjective and it’s worth it for other users, though.

      There are other options out there. I’ve heard good things about the Suunto 9. If you’re dead set on a Garmin, I would consider the 935 as well.

  140. James Sloan

    There are a lot of comments about GPS and or connectivity issues with the Fenix 5 series. I’ve had the Fenix 5x for 18 months-ish now and I have had limited issues. GPS is always complicated and inaccurate when in Slot Canyons (I live in Utah), but nearly other use I have had it all worked well. I’m not sure if I got the best of the litter or the comments made here are overblown. Ether way. I felt it useful to mention my positive experience alongside some other negative experiences. Two other comments: Maps are great. I’m happy to have them on my wrist. The feature where the Fenix will provide running routes based on distance and direction is less than stellar. I’ve used it a few times when I first got the watch, but quickly became frustrated that the calculation time was unbearably long so It’s not been a feature I’ve used much, because I get frustrated with the wait. I travel quite a bit and would like to use this feature more, it is performed faster.

    • Nathan

      I agree. My 5x, which I’ve had for a bit more than a year, has been solid. GPS doesn’t seem to travel through solid rock very well, but I shouldn’t really complain too much when there is almost no open sky and nothing but rock around me. Even then, i’m sometimes amazed that it gets “in the neighborhood” and the maps are/were super useful.

      I have a 5x Plus as well. They are both sold devices. That said, I swim about as well as a rock, so open water swimming is not something I’ve tried with the watch.

    • Jeremy

      To be fair, the connectivity issues are mostly limited to the Fenix 5/s, not the 5x.

      My 5 has awful connection issues. Stryd is worthless, as is my Garmin footpod. My Fenix 5 been great, otherwise. I’m happy enough with the GPS and heart rate accuracy.

    • Peter Davies

      I have had the 5X for over a year now and due to Bluetooth connectivity issues and Garmin Connect software issues I now rarely use it. I have put in on this week as I am on holiday and the hardware is the most robust I own. However occasionally I get connect / disconnect with my phone every 20 seconds. It is so annoying. I also own a fitbit and a Huawei Band 2 that cost £35 and I never have connection issues with those. I tried another Garmin, the Vivosmart 3, and had the same connection issues. When I get back from holiday I am seriously thinking about looking in to the Suunto 9 and selling the 5X. I no longer see Garmin as the brand they used to be.

  141. Jaron Glenn

    I just got the F5+ Titanium a few days ago and so far I’m very pleased. I’m a total gadget nerd, I’m upgrading from a F5 Sapphire Edition that I loved. My F5 has been rock solid on GPS and reasonably accurate on HR. I had some issues early on with it losing some sort of connection with my iphone for notifications but over time it got much better. I used it a lot with the following activities: trail running, road running, mountain biking, and indoor swimming, with a smattering of snow shoeing, skiing, hiking. I never did an open water swim with it.

    Comparing the F5+T with the F5, my first impression was with the weight. It’s noticeably lighter. In a great way. I don’t mind the heft of the F5 (the F5X was a little too hefty for me), but the F5+T feels a lot lighter, it was very surprising. The band is also lighter. It’s not rubber, but instead made out of some sort of composite rubber/foam/polymer type material and so far I like it way better. It’s bright orange, but it’s also a little lighter than the rubber watch bands, and it doesn’t have any stretch to it, and it’s slightly softer/smoother to the touch. I’m just finding it more comfortable to wear.

    My first mountain bike ride with the new watch I took a spill, of course, the bezel is now “broken in” with some nice scratches. The sapphire glass of course still looks perfect. The scratches are slightly less noticeable on the bezel with titanium vs my painted black steel on the F5, which showed through easily as the paint is scratched or even just a little worn on the edges. That’s nice.

    After an 8.5 mile mountain bike ride, and a 6 mile road run today, the GPS tracks look great. They look the same as the did on similar routes with my F5. Some of the comments here had me worried, and it’s totally still early, but after a ride and a run GPS is looking great. If that changes I’ll repost. HR data looked fine as well.

    I didn’t take a battery reading after my ride, I wasn’t using music yet, so I can’t comment on there. Today on my run I had music going the whole time, on a 1 hour run, I started with a full battery and after the run it was down to 86%, which suggests 6-7 hours, maybe closer to 6 with GPS and streaming music. For me, if I’m out longer than say 2 hours, I’m taking my phone and some hydration, so I’m ok with the lower battery life. I’ll have to test an all day workout without music to see how well the battery holds.

    That’s it for now, I’m just glad it seems to be working very similar to my F5 in terms of GPS and HR. I haven’t really tried maps yet but I’m excited to have them as a reference on the trails.

  142. Jan Axell

    Bought a 5S yesterday and cannot figure out how to unlock the maps.. The unit instructs to “Unlock PRO to see the maps” and “START:Open menu UP/DOWN/TAP: change screen”. Anyone knows how to do this?

  143. Roger

    If used just as a watch, how long before recharging? Is it only weeks for the 5X version?

  144. Luke

    Does anyone know if it is possible to record separately from the temp sensor in the F5 as well as an ANT connected tempe? Interested in this because the temp sensor on the watch is affected by body temp while the tempe on my foot isn’t, and I would like to see how the two change. Obviously my wrist is a ways away from true core body temp, but it would be nice to see the two change separately.

  145. Mike

    Ray, thanks as always for your awesome reviews! I know I’m coming to this late, but did you ever decide on the 5 or 5s as the everyday watch?

    I have the F3 Sapphire, and I’m leaning towards the 5s. I like the smaller watch, and I think battery would only be a real issue when I run 50 milers or 100 milers…which is at best, once maybe twice per year.


  146. John

    If Garmin has such a deep bench of developers why is it that there is no auto pause for indoor swimming? My three year old suunto ambit three does auto pause for swimming quite well. Its not called auto pause, when your swimming sets of 100s or 200s it knows when you’ve stopped and gets the interval distance right. My Garmin fenix has the interval distance and the total distance as the same. Unless I press the back button every time I rest between sets. It seem ridiculous that you have to remember the back button each time.
    I know people have been asking Garmin for years, what’s their answer for not adding this feature?

  147. Topacio Palomino

    Just got my fenix 5s and hoping you can help. I am receiving every single notification on my watch. How can I manage what I receive and don’t? I have an iPhone & can not find it anywhere! Driving me crazy. Thanks in advance !

  148. Charles Sale

    Hi there,

    I am looking into buying a Fenix 5s Plus Saphire. However, I am concerned that the battery life will not be long enough. If I was to listen to Spotify and have it on GPS mode while running, how long will the battery last?


  149. Fima

    Hey, Ray. Can you tell what kind of model F5? 010-01688-03 Surprisingly, I did not find this model either on the official website or in your review, although in our country, on the website of the official representative they are now sold at a very sweet price. Silver + black belt. There is no red line on the start button. Maybe this is the first series and it can not be bought because it is raw or problematic, etc.? I would be very grateful for the answer.

    • It’s a special sauce UK/EU one. For some bizarre reason Garmin for the last few editions has released a slightly different bezel/strap option in the UK/EU that’s not available elsewhere. Same internals, just different bezel/strap.

  150. Urko

    Hi Ray,
    Do you know if ant+ connection issues (particularly with Stryd), are solved? I mean, has the new units diferent hardware? Because I am thinking on buying a fenix 5

  151. Stephane Lefebvre

    Hey readers and Ray,

    Last few hikes i’ve done, i try to reactivate the group tracking to follow my wife on a trail. So usually, we could see each other. But since few weeks, it seems to don’t work anymore. Neither of us can’t see each other.
    Any of you aware of this? Is it just me? Broken functionnality?
    I can’t find any info on Garmin forum.


  152. Laurel

    *Fenix 5S temperature and elevation failure issues

    I love my Fenix 5S but I want to note an issue that I have had with TWO of my watches. About nine months into my first watch, I noted that my temperature and elevation readings were quite radically off. The temperature would read upwards of 500+ degrees F and elevation would read negative and with no change within workouts. I contacted Garmin and ran through a series of diagnostics and resets to no avail. Garmin sent me a new watch and now, after about nice months it has once again happened with identical symptoms. Garmin is sending me a new watch again but just curious to see if there are others experiencing this issue.
    Garmin’s customer service has always been very responsive to me and is top notch. Just wish I didn’t have to utilize them.

    • Andrew

      Sounds hellish?

    • Povilas

      I had similar if not entirely the same issue with my Fenix 5s. Temperature would be stuck at 307 degrees Celsius and the altitude would always be 20000 meters. Calibrations or hard/soft resets wouldn’t help.
      I’ve got the watch replaced, but faced new problems with the new one. There is something wrong with wrist heart rate sensor or the way firmware works with it. If WHR sensor is on, the battery goes from 100% to 0% in less than 5 hours – and I am not doing any workout, just wearing the watch casually and using activity tracking features.

      Garmin support admitted that this is a known problem and should be resolved via SW update. I’ve got version 13.00 installed yesterday and while it seems to improve things a bit, the battery still went down by 12% in one hour.

      Apparently, this plagues a huge batch of watches, since Garmin support stated they won’t be issuing a replacement (at least not for now), quote: “we cannot provide a replacement at this time as the new device will have the exact same problem.”

      This sounds a bit dubious though, since I haven’t seen a lot of reports on the Internet about this. There are some threads in Garmin forums, but I would expect a lot bigger fuss around the world if all new devices actually had such issue.

  153. Olivia

    Anyone else have issues with their Fenix 5S showing “no zone” when working out? I find this happens when I’m walking at a quick pace (HR typically in the ~140s for me with this type of exercise) or rowing on my indoor rower. I am breathing hard so I know I am not in a “no zone” heart rate. It almost seems like it is based on the type of activity I have the watch on while tracking.

    Any reading materials or information on how to get more than time when on an indoor rower or bike? My rower is a Concept 2 with connectivity capabilities but I have no idea how to sync it up with the indoor rowing feature on my watch. Same with indoor biking (I typically do spin classes at cycle bar which is similar to soul cycle and other spin studios).

    Appreciate any advice!

  154. Jon

    Hi Ray!

    I bought a Fenix 5 thanks to your recommendation, and it’s been an amazing tool for hiking and snow-shoeing. Navigation is spotless and its incredible battery life has made my outdoor adventures a lot safer: I know for a fact that I will be able to find my way home no matter how long the hike is.

    However, lately I have started using a chest strap when cycling, and noticed great discrepancies between the readings on it and on the optical sensor on my fenix 5. Therefore, I ran your analyzer, which confirmed my suspicion: the readings on my fenix 5 are so off that become completely useless.

    I wrote to Garmin’s customer service, including a link to the results in your analyzer, and I found the response hilarious and worth sharing: “So, I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. Can you elaborate more on this analyzer that you used? Also, this is a 3rd party thing that you have used. I would make sure that you are up to date on your software. Also, I would try to reset the watch.”

    Sooo… somebody working at customer support at Garmin does not even know what the DCR Analyzer is? All I get after a detailed explanation is “reset and update”?

    Thanks again for your work,

    • Jon

      Oh, I forgot to mention that the discrepancies are enormous both in indoor and outdoor cycling, so it is not the vibration on the bike which is causing the issue. [I mostly posted the story for you to know that Garmin support seem confused and disoriented about your only comparison tool, not to get a technical response from you, but still wanted to clarify this for your info :-) ]

    • Jon

      “online”, not “only”

    • Jon

      Update: customer support has adviced for a watch replacement. We’ll see!

    • jorim

      i am using a Fenix 5, everything is ok so far. but the enter button feels like there is a 2 step when you press it. Never had it before. I am afraid that the button may be faulty and may come out of its socket. It is currently responsive, so no issue in that department. Any comment? It is still under warranty. Shall i change it?

    • Nitin Goel

      I have the same issue here …. I had been a user for Fitbit for a long time but given the challenge of integrating Fitbit with Powermeter / cadence /HR strap etc etc … and the feedback on Fenix 5 … I bought Fenix 5 Plus …

      I have loved the integration Garmin offers but hate the HR …. Suspicions started from Resting HR going from 40-60 for no obvious reasons and then for the same activities Fitbit made much more sense (for example when i am almost dying above my FTP …. Garmin shows a HR of 120-140 while Fitbit is much closer to max HR) i have also compared the data with a TICKRX and same ….

      While i expect the wrist based measurement to be inaccurate ….. i was assuming it would be something closer to Fitbit … but this is way off … super disappointed unfortunately ….

  155. Chanelle Retief

    Heeeeey there!!!! So, I just got my garmin fenix 5x… I am doing a 50km road race in a few weeks. I got the route from the organiser, I now want to put it on my garmin. But the route was done in Mapometer…. I know how to export etc, but my question is…. Do I choose “tracks” or “routes” when exporting it??

    • Phil

      Routes can be frustrating. Tracks on the other hand are simple you just follow the line,
      If I were you create a 5 or 10k route using Mapometer go for a run and try both see which one you prefer.
      If your 50k run is in an area new to you definitely go for the track option to be on the safe side.
      Also in my experience the Track line can be hard to see when superimposed over the 5X map. So change the 5X map settings to help you.
      Have a great run.

    • Jorim

      I have an issue with the enter button. Currently in the Fenix 5 but the enter button has lost its springy feedback, The button still works but you cannot tell if you pressed it or not without looking at the screen. How do you fix it? or have to send it in for warranty claim? Anyone has faced this issue?


  156. Robert Colombo

    Hey Ray,
    Forgive me if I missed this, but I was wondering if you know the maximum total number of sensors that can be paired with the fenix 5s? On the edge 520, I would reach the limit when trying to connect with different bikes.
    Thanks in advance,

  157. Mario Tiozzo

    Apologies for this question, but I can’t seem to find a conclusive answer out there. Does the Fenix 5 have the audio prompts (via the cell phone) capabilities?

    Thanks a bunch for your insights.

  158. Steve Roach

    Just wondered if you can download music to this watch and is it just Spotify? Wondered if itunes was an option?

  159. Chris

    So I ordered up the 5+ DLC and absolutely love it. Issue though: the down button (bottom left) stopped working properly after about 30 days. Just in time to be able to easily send it back to Amazon. This was after 30 days of daily use. Running 5x times per week, and wearing it constantly. That button definitely gets way more use than any of the others.

    Has anyone else experienced the same thing? I’m going to order another one, but wanted to make sure that button isn’t known to be faulty or have issues before I do.


  160. Audun

    One of the little rubber pieces that keep the end of the watch band from flapping around on my Fenix 5 broke. There was 2, now there is only one, and when that breaks, I can’t wear the watch (it’ll be too annoying, I have small wrists so the loose length of the band is pretty long). What is this little rubber part called? Where do I get it? I don’t wanna spend 50€ on a new band…

    • Tensai Asfaw

      I used wish.com and ordered a new band from china (about $5 + some shipping cost). Its slow, but in the end you get an extra band and the little black pieces :)

      Alternatively I’ve used just boring rubber hair bands from my youngest daughter to keep the wristband in place.

  161. Bogdan Penescu

    soooo dissapointed by this so-called “industry-leading” fitness watch…
    first of all:
    walking, instant pace just sucks. when you lift your hand to look at the watch, instant pace drops drastically, somewere between 1-3 min/km. the longer you keep looking at the watch, the more the instant pace drops… do this more often, and I bet it will have negative impact on average pace.
    second: walking, almost same route, average pace a little higher, distance and time a little longer, calories burned less by almost 20%… wtf???
    pool swiming: useless piece of s&#t. even with chest strap it’s impossible to give me instant HR, how the f&#%k am I supposed to train in the right aerobic window specific for my fitness level???
    pool swiming: infinite problems with lenghts counting… on average 24 lenghts, it only counts 17-21, regardless on how strong I push at the end of the lenght. the HORROR!!!
    final point:
    just got for a few days an Apple Watch 3 from a friend, I tell you guys, it pisses from above on this garmin… flawless!!!

    • It sounds like for instant pace you’ve got GPS off while walking (or something else is amiss). Most watches will use a portion of the accelerometer pace to even out GPS issues, especially at low speeds like walking (where GPS struggles a bit). Apple does the same, btw.

      For calories, it’s based on HR. Has almost nothing to do with pace. Thus if your HR is higher or lower on a given day, that’s why calories is off. Apple does the same here too.

      As for swimming HR, you’d need the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM straps to get HR data afterwards. But no Garmin watch shows HR data during the swim itself. Garmin says this is because the quality of the data isn’t up to spec for optical HR sensors with water. In general, this is mixed. For some people it works, others it doesn’t (with other brands). It’s really comes down to the person, same applies for Apple, Suunto, and Polar here, where optical HR sensors are enabled for swimming.

    • Bogdan Penescu

      First, thanks for your time to answer (almost) every guy who writes you. Great guy, seriously!!!
      Second: indeed, I keep GPS turned off for walking, as I am walking common, borring, same urban route, so I decided to save battery by keeping GPS off.
      Do you think turning it on will significantly improve instant pace and thus maybe improving the final average pace too?
      Third: what about the problems with lenghts counting? any tested solution? apple never misses one lenght…

  162. Andrew

    Hi Ray,

    Having a problem with the info i get form the Weather widget on Fenix 5. It does not show the weather from my location, even tho is always paired with phone and garmin connect working in background.

    Is there a solution?

    Many thanks!

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      +1 with my FR945. Today tempo run with 30°C (90°F) and Garminconnect shows 13°C (55° F). The FR945 has a feature called “heat acclimation”, but if the data of temperature are wrong why was introduced this new feature?

  163. Spidercrab

    I have had a Fenix 5 FW for the last 3 weeks and have concluded that the Elevation Gain for Cycling is unacceptably wrong even though the Altimeter is working correctly and accurately. Mine will often ignore the first and last few meters of a decent hill and often totally ignore “hills” or ramps of a few meters even though the altimeter after the ramp, is correctly displaying 3 meters higher. How can your altitude increase in 3m, and remain there, yet the Altimeter Gain shows no gain! Over a decent hilly ride I am seeing about 10% lower Elevation Gain than expected. By comparison my 10 year old Edge 500 is spot on.

    It would be interesting to hear if others who use the Elevation Gain, experience this. It is definitely a software inaccuracy or bug because you can see the Altimeter increment at the bottom of a hill and then the first few meters are discarded for the Altimeter Gain calculation. This looks like aggressive hysteresis more suited to trekking tracking than cycling. I really hope there is a solution to this or the Fenix will be returned.

  164. David Betteley

    Great review however I do have one question.

    What sort of battery life will I get using the nav tool to follow a map? The race i’m planning on is 105 miles long and i’m expecting to be around the 30 hour mark finish time.

    Using a Fenix 3 at the minute which I can obviously wear, use, and charge at the same time.

    Thanks in advance.


  165. T3H

    Wow! I come across this review and it is just perfect. Tks for the details.

    However, I have a question regarding swimming – If I do different strokes, for example, 200m butterfly and following up with 400m freestyle – would the Fenix 5 differentiate between the two and show in my post-swimming data?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Phil

      Welcome to the DC Rainmaker forum.
      Yes it does work but can be a bit iffy sometimes.
      If you use good form, push off and glide well and don’t stop or switch stroke style mid length it can give good results.

  166. Tim

    Has anyone seen a major drop in battery life as of the most recent firmware update (14.10)?

    I am working on tracking the info down on the Garmin forums as well….



  167. alainquimarche


    In your opinion, is there any chance to see the Garmin assistance functions (crash detection, …) on the Fenix 5 ??

    Keep up the good work Ray :)

  168. Lee Smith

    Hi there, ive just bought a fenix 5, and i have followed the steps to manually into my wheels size as i dont have a speed/cadence sensor.
    When i have got to sonsors/accessories i cant find speed sensor can you help?
    Kind regards Lee

    • Paul S.

      If you don’t have a speed sensor, there’s no need or way to set your wheel size. You can only do it when a speed sensor is active and paired to your device.

  169. Stephen Fitzgerald

    Hello to all. I have the fēnix 5 – Sapphire Edition Software:

    The GPS track, in my opinion, is bad. I run streets, town forest, trails. I give the watch lots a flexibility in the later 2 venues. My run last week on the street sticks out for 2 specific parts of the track. First, running on the right side of the street in the breakdown lane, the track started out correctly then has me crossing the street. This track is easily 50 feet off and getting worse for a 350 yard distance. The buildings are 1-2 story with a few 3 stories thrown in. When I get to the intersection and take a right the track still has me on the other side of the road, on the opposite corner(100′ away), and then corrects to get me on the same street but on the opposite side of the road.

    Second, I am on the right side of the road on a straight away for roughly. 3/4 mile. There are single family homes and a few trees here and there. This complete section has me on the opposite side of the road easily 50 feet off or more.

    Should a 2 year old watch with updated software be this far off?

  170. Brian Reiter

    Hi Ray.

    Do ConnectIQ data fields potentially have a significant impact on battery life? I am preparing for a Sky Run ultra with a significant navigation component.

    I have a f5X. On long runs with navigation, I’m seeing a burn rate than implies about 13 to 13.5 hours. That’s less than 70% of stated capacity. I’m trying to figure out if this is a setup optimization issue or an old battery issue.

    In particular I have Stryd Zones and HR Zone Chart data fields and my question is if you know from your experience and contacts at Garmin if ConnectIQ data fields have a significant impact on battery burn.

    I don’t want to use UltraTrac because GPS precision is important for navigating in challenging terrain. I also don’t want to turn off the HR monitor.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Thanks for your

    • Hi Brian-

      Yes, CIQ data fields can definitely take a whack at battery life.

      One way you self-test it is to load up files in the DCR Analyzer, we actually will show and graph the battery burn and give you exact battery burn per hour rates. So you could do say an hour or two run with Stryd, and then another without it, or with specific data fields and see what the difference is.

      If you have old files, you can load those in too actually – we’ll enumerate all of them.

      That said, the bigger battery burn is honestly navigation. If you were to back of the napkin battery burn drivers they’d be (in order of bigger to smaller):

      1) Backlight
      2) GPS enablement
      3) Optical HR sensor being on
      4) Navigation (with mapping)

      5) Everything else.

      Btw, Analyzer here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Brian Reiter

      Thanks Ray,

      That’s pretty much what I thought. It’s right on the margin of doable between the loss of peak battery capacity due to age and use, and also the length of the event. I have serious battery anxiety, but at the same time I don’t want to futz with a battery pack during a technical climb or descent late in the event nor really disable everything but GPS.

      I did a 50km event at Mont-aux-Sources in the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa last month and battery was no problem, but the trail was clearly marked and I didn’t use navigation. Then we went for a training camp in the wilderness in Zimbabwe a couple of weeks ago where navigation was **essential** and found that battery life on my watch is not good enough, while my friend with an almost brand new f5X was OK.

      The issue is that Sky Run Zimbabwe is in extreme terrain and the course is not marked. If you lose GPS navigation you can really be screwed. Last year someone was wandering around for hours in the dark late at night on Mt. Nyangani because they didn’t have GPS util I think eventually they wandered into a village and got help.

      My wife told me to stop worrying about it and order a fenix 6X to make the battery promlem go awa. That’s what I did. Still waiting for the international shipment, though.

    • Anytime you get unexpected spousal approval, you run with it. And you run fast with it. Don’t look back, don’t ask for clarification. Just run!

  171. Tensai Asfaw

    “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:”

    Hey – complex interval workouts can be created in the app and synced on the go – perhaps that is a software change they’ve made since you wrote this and other reviews? Might be worth updating since people might still look to your reference reviews when deciding if to buy these devices.

    Question – I’ve owned the FR 235 and now Fenix 5S. While I don’t strictly need it, wish I could get decent OCR HR readings. You cover this in a lot of reviews, but just to ask again…do you think it is possible with my profile or is it a limitation of the tool? I’m dark skinned with plenty of arm hair. So many tools (training load, fitness, VO2Max, etc) all depend on the HR data, so it seems a great many of the features are useless if that can’t be solved!

  172. Joe Muscat

    Hi Ray,

    excellent reviews as always – I got a TomTom Cardio and then a Fenix 5 off the back of your reviews!

    A quick question. Do you know if Garmin will be incorporating Body battery functionality into existing Fenix 5 models or is it only going into new Garmins?

    Many Thanks

  173. Timo Toivonen

    Does “Fenix 5” support Spotify?

  174. I got my Garmin Fenix 5S on Christmas, and have been wearing it ever since. I used a Fitbit Versa previously, and was pretty happy with the daily tracking (steps, calories, etc); it just wasn’t nearly as robust when it comes to workout data, so I was excited to trade up. I have always used a Garmin as my running watch, but typically only pulled it out for races; I was excited to finally have a device that I could wear every day AND get solid running stats. However, the Fenix 5S has had a number of major issues, and Garmin support has been of no help in resolving them.

    I wore both the Fitbit and the Fenix concurrently for the first week, which allowed me to easily spot a lot of discrepancies. While I understand that the Fitbit is known to overestimate calories and steps, the Fenix seems to be dramatically underestimating calories and steps. I don’t try to eat back exactly what I burn or anything like that, so having lower overall targets wouldn’t be problematic as long as it were consistent. However, the Fenix is extremely erratic in tracking – to the point where I don’t trust any of its data. I don’t care about a specific step count, but I want my daily watch to be directionally accurate – so I know that I burned more calories on a day when I made it a point to get up from my desk and walk around between meetings, vs sitting on my butt for 12 hours straight. The Fenix does not seem to have any rhyme or reason to picking up on my extra activity – see columns I and J in this spreadsheet (link to docs.google.com) for a direct comparison of Garmin vs Fitbit metrics (where I have for the last five years found the Fitbit to be directionally accurate and don’t have a reason to doubt its consistency).

    As a Coloradan, I ski a lot, and have also noticed that any time I do a skiing workout, the Fenix seems to dramatically underestimate my calorie burn. Garmin support first told me the issue was because I didn’t log it as a skiing workout (fine, though ideally I’d like my watch to estimate my calories whether I remember to hit start on it or not), but even when I properly start / stop my Fenix for skiing, it’s inaccurate. My Fenix is worn under my sleeve (so it’s against my skin and not cold), and seems to be great at tracking where I go on the mountain and how long I spent actually skiing vs riding the chair… but it seems to only average around 140 calories / hour of skiing. When that hour is ACTIVE skiing time (excluding time sitting on a lift), and you factor in the fact that I absolutely love moguls and am usually trying to do steep / tiring terrain where my legs are sore as heck the next day… 140 calories / hour seems incredibly low. Garmin then told me it’s just that I’m excellent shape, and so don’t burn many calories when I ski, but I don’t buy that argument either – 140 calories per hour is less than I probably burn with easy walking, let alone breathless skiing.

    More broadly, and much more problematically, my Fenix also has an issue where the steps and calories I burn in workouts do not get counted toward my daily total. This was most evident when I recently did an Olympic distance triathlon, which included a 10K run… and while my Garmin confirmed that I ran 43 minutes at 181 steps per minute (simple math shows that’s 7783 steps for the run portion of the tri alone), immediately after finishing the race, my step count was 3200. (I can confirm this with a photo I snapped at the time.) 3200 to me sounds like my steps before the race, given all the back and forth I was doing from my car, getting set up in transition, etc. I don’t typically spot check my data during the day, so I’m not sure how often this happens, but Garmin support has confirmed that there seems to be an issue where my steps / calories during workouts are not being included in my daily totals – which is a huge miss.

    I have reached out to Garmin numerous times via phone, chat, and email. Each time I’m told by the rep looking at my data that they can see there’s a problem… but they need a specialist team to look into it, and someone will get back to me. I keep having to go back to Garmin every week or so; no one has ever proactively followed up even though I keep requesting that. Through my followups, I’ve learned that it’s a known issue for multiple users, but Garmin doesn’t have any kind of ETA on a fix. This is unacceptable to me, given that the Fenix is supposed to cover both workouts and daily tracking, and it seems to be failing miserably at the latter. It’s now been six weeks of issues and trying to get help from Garmin, and I am past the return window on the device, which is extremely frustrating. Garmin seems to know there is a major problem, but they also don’t seem to care about it whatsoever.

    I’ve compiled some of my data into a spreadsheet (link to docs.google.com), and highlighted the days where my calories burned during my workout are lower than my total active calories for the day. I’ve also included notes in column K where I’ve seen other issues, and highlighted days I was traveling and therefore think the Fenix’s steps may be undercounted. (Whenever I fly, I go to my gate and then pace back and forth, usually racking up quite a few steps before I board; with my Fitbit, I never had a travel day under 10K steps, and was frequently much, much higher depending on what my actual workout was for the day.) I’m more than happy to pull other stats that may be pertinent, or share my raw data in Garmin Connect.

    Any thoughts on how to proceed from here? Has anyone else experienced these issues?

    • Charanpal Singh Sekhon

      This is very strange. I have been using Garmin devices for a very long time. Started with a basic Garmin watch counting steps and for short runs and upgraded to Fenix 3, Fenix 5 and now Fenix 5x. I have never seen an issue with the step counts and any activities. I use Fenix 5x for Golf, Running and walking. Did you try using a different device to see it that could resolve the issue. I think the device could be still in warranty if it relates to the faulty device. Worth trying!

    • I have been contacting Garmin support every 1-3 weeks since January imploring them to do something, and FINALLY they agreed to let me return the device in exchange for another. I’m disappointed that the new one is refurbished, since mine hasn’t worked since it was brand new… hopefully I don’t encounter any issues with this one. The replacement is set to arrive on Tuesday. However, ski season is over so I won’t be able to test that functionality until at least November. I at least hope it will count walking and running steps properly, with accurate calorie tracking as an added bonus that I have frankly given up hope on at this point.

    • Charanpal Singh Sekhon

      I had an issue with the older Fenix 3 where after every charge, the screen would show 100% charged message and wouldn’t go back! I had to contact Garmin support few times and they sent me a refurbished one. I guess that’s a policy of most OEMs. Lets hope that the new device keeps track of your steps and calories. Just FYI, the refurbished model is as good as a new one, the only difference is that it doesn’t come in the same Garmin box (mine came in a white box) and had to send them the payment in advance because I didn’t return the old device. Have fun!

  175. ng. Miroslav Gejdoš

    Při běžném používání hodinek se mě odřel rámeček hodinek. Hodinky používám pouze na sport nebo na denní běžné použití. Při práci si je sundávám. Nepředstavoval jsem si, že po tak krátké době budou takto znehodnocené (odřené). Ing. Miroslav Gejdoš

  176. Pete

    Thanks for the Fenix 5 review. It’s very helpful as I get to grips with all that it can do. Could you tell me what the two numbers with the blue and green arrows are in this picture from your site. link to media.dcrainmaker.com

    There is something similar on the navigate back to the start screen which I cannot work out what it means.

    Thanks again

    • Phil

      As far as I’m aware the green arrow indicates how much climbing you have done on the current course. The blue arrow is how much more there is to do to complete the course.

  177. cbour

    Right now in Greece there is a huge discount for fenix 5x costing 379euro is this model still competitive?
    I was in the market for one but fenix 6/forerunner 945 seems expensive, I was looking for forerunner 245 music/vivoactive4/venu.
    Any comment would be greatly appreciated

    • Tyler Mueller

      I’m with you! Great sale in Canada right now. My assumption is that Garmin is moving on from this model series, SKU-wise. I’m sure there will be support for a little while yet. Fenix 6 was too much for me, and the 5X+ didn’t offer enough for me to justify that upgrade, music while hiking/running isn’t a preference.
      From my readings HRM and the satellites are the same. Might be different for you in Greece as they added Galileo the EU based GPS.
      Anyway, IMO this is still a worthwhile purchase especially for the price. Keep in mind I was mainly comparing 5X and 5X+.

    • Scott

      Actually, they have different GPS chip sets.

    • Tyler Mueller

      This is directly off of the Garmin forums, when searching for the 5+ GPS chips. Maybe this is wrong, but it’s telling me they’re the same GPS chipset throughout a few watches.

      “In the GPS firmware (GUP2957.GCD), there’s “MT3333” and “Software Version 2.30”. Also “MT3333_DSP_B221_0001″. But the 006-B2957-00 is also used in the Fenix 5, 5X, Chronos and the Forerunner 935. Meaning, they all use the same SKU/ID for their GPS chip and unless Garmin is distributing different firmwares under the same SKU, they all use the same chip.”

    • Scott

      In Ray’s reviews, he says that the 5 has the MeiaTek chipset and the 6 has the Sony chipset.

    • Brian Reiter

      The 3, 5, and 5 plus series all use the same MediaTek GNSS chip. 5 and 5 plus added support for Galileo.

      The 6 series uses a totally different, extremely low power GNSS chip from Sony. It is also in the marq series, f945, and f245. Suunto 9 also uses the Sony chip and I think Coros. The Sony chip is large part of the huge battery life improvements in this latest generation from Garmin. There were also some serious problems getting it to work reasonably early on. See Ray’s Marq Athlete review for open water swim fail.

    • Tyler Mueller

      Nice, That is how I understood it. I maybe didn’t it voice it properly.
      But I was unaware the F5 also added Galileo. That’s interesting.
      And the specificity of the F6 chip I was unaware of. But I was out of that market due to the dollars associated with that watch.

      Appreciate the clarification

  178. John Crowley

    Do you know if the Fenix can measure swimming strokes while stationary? I want to swim in a paddling pool while tethered, so can’t measure distance, but I am hoping to measure strokes in a set time. If I turn off GPS in open water would it measure strokes? Anybody do swimming whilst tethered.

  179. Brian

    Hello! My wife just bought me a refurbished 5X, and I am wondering if it is a good purchase still in 2020. I am coming from a Vivoactive 3, which I like, but I am excited to get something new with more features. I am not paying $1000 for a watch, and even the $300+ for this one is a stretch.

    Is it still viable for years? I don’t want a disposable $300 watch.
    the 5X is huge, if I don’t need maps, would the 5 be better?
    Anything else?

    • Brian Reiter

      If you don’t need maps or external accessories the fenix 5 gets better battery life — especially during navigation — and is smaller that then fenix 5X. The display, however, is the same size as the f5X.

      The f5 and f5S — but not the f5X — have a hardware problem with the Bluetooth/ANT+ antenna which means some 3rd party ANT+ sensors do not connect reliably. This was serious problem with Stryd causing drop-outs, but not a problem with Garmin HR monitors and the Garmin RD pod. The fenix 5X does not have this antenna problem.

  180. E Bowden

    Hi Ray,

    Any chance you can persuade Garmin to add Virtual run to Fenix 5s plus? Treadmill running is the only thing keeping me sane through the lockdown. If I could use my watch on Zwift Run, that would be great. As a premium watch, it seems silly not to release that app to it.

    Feeling hopeful,


  181. Michael LeBeau

    Anyone have the experience of the watch refusing to charge? I’ve googled a bit and found a few commentaries about isopropyl and tarnishing and what not but after trying all of the fixes, I’ve still got a dead screen. 2.5 years old, so no warranty, either. Fenix 5X. I’ve isopropyl’d the contacts, I’ve scratched at them with a sharp knife, I’ve used a stainless steel cookware cleaner, I’ve scrubbed them with steel wool…nothing.

    So I picked up a Vivoactive 3 at Costco today as a stop gap…but it’s not really a suitable replacement for a 5X Sapphire with a steel band…

    • JB

      You need a new cable. I’ve gone through a few of them since I have had the watch. Either go to garmin and buy one or amazon. Amazon has a 2 pack for $7.99

    • Michael LeBeau

      In this instance, I don’t think that’s the issue. I’ve tried two knockoff cables and a brand new cable that came with (and charged) the Vivoactive.

    • JB

      Sorry, I hope you find a fix for it.

    • Michael LeBeau

      As a followup…I plugged it into the original Garmin cable that came with it that was connected to my computer at the office today as one final last ditch effort. Started up right away! Not sure why it didn’t work with the Vivoactive 3 cable. Maybe to do with whatever it was connected to as a power source…?

      I tried it in other devices today when I got home and it showed as charging without issue. Maybe something to do with the power being fully discharged, it wouldn’t work unless connected to a computer or something along those lines…? Too many variables to really guess, but kudos to Garmin for offering a replacement for $170 USD ($245 CAD, I believe it was). But glad I don’t need to spend the $$!

    • Eric Buxton

      My original cable still works though sometimes it takes a few hookups to make it sync-it will charge on first hookup, but syncing is pickier. 5X

  182. Eric Buxton

    V20 battery life problem with 5X
    I updated to the non-beta 20.0.0 Saturday morning and suddenly my battery life is terrible. I had been getting 5-6 days on a charge with 3 2.5hr or so bikerides included. This is less than even a year ago, but suddenly I am losing 50% per day. I also noticed an ANT issue-my radar would shut off automatically when done with ride and now it doesn’t. Not sure if related to software update, but timing is suspicious. This is the first time I have had a degradation of performance with an upgrade even having done some Betas. Has anyone else seen this?

  183. Alexssandro

    Hello DCRAINMAKer, I have a 5x sapphire, and I have some problems with it: instability in the HC, that’s why I use the chest strap, and the low battery charge. As I am at the top of the garmin features, what will really be a significant upgrade? I use JBL DIVE and having music is no problem. My use is 90% bike, with Power meter

  184. olivier

    after 3 month using pretty intensively the fenix 5s sapphire, i am not really satisfied with the product. The main complaint is about the battery which runs out too quickly. In trail mode or hike, with low Gps precision you have a poor track in trees or building environment, or you cannot exercise more than 5 hours if you select the high precision in GPS.
    The second complaint is for open water, the track is completely hazardous, in my experiences my track is 30% shorter than what i really swam !
    But i like the day to day watch, the S is nice for little wrist as mine.
    So for open water and long hike i use my old 910XT which does the job perfectly.

    by the way thanks DC for this site, i have been using for years

  185. Thomas

    I experienced the following behavior on my 5s lateley:
    It does no longer record a GPS track when running. Distance and pace are fine though. I did not test any other outdoor sport profiles since I use an edge for cycling and did otherwise only swim and train indoors.
    Back in my head there is something about a setting that changes whether distance is done via GPS or via the motion sensors in the watch / chest strap and step length? Could that be the reason? But I cannot find it…
    I am not sure if there has been a software update lately.

  186. Nicklas Månspers

    Hey DC

    Here’s a question from Sweden, regarding the Fenix 5 (which I have myself).

    It’s been some time since this watch was released.

    Today, april 2023, how far behind, would you say that the Fenix 5 is – from a functionality-point compared to the more new watch in this segment; mening watches that covers multisport-mode?!

    Not from a “how-does-the-watch-look-like” or touchscreen, more from useage-point I mean.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Matthew Rice

      Probably not that far behind. Doesn’t have music, crash detection, battery improved slightly, SP02 and nfc and that’s about it. Some screen and software improvements too I’m sure.