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

Garmin-Fenix5-5X-Mapping-Watchface

*** 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:

Garmin-Fenix5s-Fenix5X

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).

Garmin-Fenix5-WiFi-SapphireOnly

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:

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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:

Garmin-Fenix5-5S-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.

Garmin-Fenix5-QuickFit-Bands

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-UnboxingTop

Fenix5-UnboxingSide Fenix5-UnboxingEverything

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

Fenix5-Unboxing5S-Front

Fenix5-Unboxing5S-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.

Slide5

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.

Slide6

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.

Slide3

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

Slide2

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

Slide9

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:

Garmin-Fenix5-OpticalHR

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Watch-Face

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-Activity-Tracking

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.

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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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Optical-Sensor

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.

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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:

Garmin-Fenix5-Running-sports

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’.

Garmin-Fenix5-Select-Run

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-GPS-Ready

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Select-DataPage

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Lap-Banner-Confirmation

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).

screencapture-connect-garmin-modern-activity-1549701752-1490305246468

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Triathlon-Mode

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Triathlon-Mode-Changes

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.

Garmin-Fenix5-Locking-Option-Triathlon

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)

Phew!

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).

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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:

Garmin-Fenix5-StructuredWorkout

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).

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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.

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

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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.

Garmin-Fenix5-OpticalSensor-5X

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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s that climb, once zoomed in:

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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.

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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:

Garmin-Fenix5-GLONASS-GPS

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.

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

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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.

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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):

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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):

Garmin-Fenix5-Sensors-Bluetooth-ANT

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:

Garmin-Fenix5-Bugs

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:

Garmin-Fenix5-vs-Fenix3

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 November 29th, 2019 @ 5:07 amNew Window
Price$549$599$499
Product Announcement DateJan 5th, 2016Jan 4th, 2017Jan 4th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateFebruary 2016March 2017Mar 31st, 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi (Sapphire only)USB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 50hrs in GPS with optical off, about 20-25% less with optical HR onUp to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 75hrs in UltraTrac GPSUp to 50 hours
Recording Interval1S OR SMART1S or SmartVariable
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreat
AlertsVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualSound/Visual/Vibrate
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
Can change yards to metersYEsYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYEsYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesNo
TriathlonGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Designed for triathlonYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYEsYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Auto Start/StopYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYEsNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYEsYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataYesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)YesYesno
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesNo
Weather Display (live data)yESYesno
NavigateGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYEsYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoYes (5X Only)No
Back to startYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoYes (5X Only)No
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricGPS
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)No
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesno
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoYesNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoYesNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)No
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)With Connect IQ AppsYesNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoYesNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapablenOYesYes (+ Stryd Running Power Meter)
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoYEsYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsYesYes-
SoftwareGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLink
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.

Summary:

Garmin-Fenix5-ElevationProfile

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 review useful? Wanna support the site? Here’s how:

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

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

Garmin Fenix 5/5S/5X – Use VIP to get 10% of your purchase price in points back

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

And finally, here’s a handy list of some of my favorite Garmin-specific accessories for the Garmin watches. Of course, being ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatible, you don’t have to limit things to just Garmin.

ProductAmazon LinkNote
Garmin Cadence Sensor V2This 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.
Garmin HRM-DUAL Chest StrapThis is one of the top two straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the other being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.
Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM StrapsWhile optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are the best Garmin-compatible options out there to fill the gap.
Garmin Puck ChargerSeriously, 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 dogs house. Just in case.
Garmin Speed Sensor V2This 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.

Thanks for reading!

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1,975 Comments

  1. Henrik

    Great review !

    So I happily bought myself a Fenix5 and encounter the first problem. Garmin Connect Mobile does not really sync between multiple devices. I use an Edge 1000 for cycling and already have 300+ workouts on it. I will not wear the Fenix5 on top of that for training load estimations. Is there any possibility.

    Cycling workouts done with the Edge 1000 ( synced to GCM ) will not display on the Fenix 5 ( synced with GCM afterwards ) and will not be used for training stress estimations. My main training load is with cycling, about 75%. Is the whole metrics calculation now useless on my watch or is there a workaround ?

    best regards

    • Janka

      I’m also interested in this future! Ray, do you have information from Garmin? Are they planning to implement this functionality with future firmware? Is there some hidden problems? Marketing?

      I’m riding enduro bikes and the risk for damaging my Fenix 5s is very high. I would be happy to buy another, cheaper Garmin device (FR 35), but than all the performance metrics will be useless on my Fenix.. 🙁

    • I haven’t heard anything, which is definitely annoying. Though, it is something I brought up a couple weeks ago.

    • GREGORY UCHMAN

      If I am understanding this correctly, only activities recorded on my 5X will count towards my training load? I also have a 735xt and an Edge 520 but it seems that any activities I use them for will not add to my seven day rolling training load score. That is very disappointing to me and seems like a major omission. I wish they worked along the same lines as True Up.

    • Phil_B

      I have the same problem as Henrik, namely that my cycling activities recorded on my Edge 1000 (because it’s the best device for using / displaying progress on the bike) don’t show in my Fenix training scores or on the Fenix last exercise screen.

      So, I,m training well, but the recovery and training load screens are not reflecting my reality.

      Ray do you know if Garmin have any plans to fix this?

      For me, this was the USP for buying two garmin top end devices from the same family.

      Phil

    • Adrian Vargas

      The lack of two-way integration between Garmin Connect and the devices is annoying. The Edge 1000 ends up becoming a horribly expensive and hard to justify display.

      It looks like as if Garmin instead of incentivating consumers to load on Garmin, they are pushing to rationalize.

      An iOS/Andriod app that can display things real-time would kill the need for a Bike computer.

    • I haven’t heard of any plans to address the cross-device training scores unfortunately. Though it’s something I brought up a week or two ago to them.

  2. Mindaugas

    Hello,

    Is it possible to start a workout, but follow a predefined route? In the review I see that you can follow a gpx route. But how do I start for example a cycling workout and choose a gpx route to follow? Can this be combined in Fenix 5 and was it the same in Fenix 3?

    Thank you!

  3. Trey M

    Has anyone experiences elevation accuracy issues with the Fenix 5 yet? Ray, any knowledge about this being an issue or

    The issue I have had and still have with my Fenix 3 is with elevation accuracy. This is a big deal to me because I train by running a lot of personal vertical challenges… I am not concerned with a few feet of different gain/loss, as I have read others complaining about. The elevation on my watch is bonkers, 40,000 ft here, 2000 there… I have cleaned the watch, done hard resets, and every other recommended action with no improvement. I have read that possibly thousands of Fenix users have experienced this failure. I love the Fenix, and always thought I would purchase an immediate replacement if anything happened to mine. The problem is I can’t justify the purchase if the elevation accuracy is going to fail within 2 years. I couldn’t believe Garmin didn’t change any hardware or design involving the elevation sensors, altimeter and barometer on the Fenix 5… To me it was like Ferrari coming out with a model that flies and is a submarine, but the speedometer doesn’t work, and by the way, they aren’t concerned with it and are not going to change a thing on the next design. This was the impression I got when talking to their customer service, who have always been extremely helpful. Any insight is very much appreciated!!!!

    • Nobody has reported the issues you noted on the Fenix 5 to my knowledge. There actually has been a lot behind the scenes to prevent the Fenix 3 baro issues some have seen.

      I’d push back on Garmin via support if you’re seeing the issues you’re seeing. They should be able to get you a replacement unit.

    • Trey M

      Unfortunately, they cannot help me because the warranty is out, which is also a shame. It’s also very frustrating to hear that they are working on this behind the scenes because no one I have spoken to a Garmin will even admit that there is an issue. A lot of people experienced problems with the Fenix 3 within a couple months of purchase, but mine was fine until about the 2 year mark. Up until now I have bought a new Garmin watch every 2 years or so, but at this point I am so happy with the Fenix otherwise that it is the only watch I want. I just don’t trust that it will last the 5 years I would expect out of it. I would actually pay another couple hundred $$$s for an extended warranty if that were available. What a shame shame shame….

    • Even for out of warranty, they should be able to offer a replacement, usually the out of warranty cost is about $80-$100.

    • Trey M

      I very much appreciate your reviews, and thank you so much for the responses. Unfortunately, for me the money is not the issue, and saving $130.00 on an old model that doesn’t have built in HR(they told me the prorated rebate is only on the Fenix 3 model I am replacing) and maps is not worth it to me. I would rather pay full price for that new model Ferrari that has a speedometer that actually works. I’m spoiled…. Ray, thank you sincerely for your time.

  4. CMP

    Does anyone have experience with fenix 5 and the 4iiii Precision power meter? The current Clever Training 20% sale is finally pushing me over the edge on purchasing the 4iiii to pair with my F5, but I read in the comments that the F5 may have lower reception than the other two F5 (S and X) models causing data dropouts with certain sensors such as Stryd. It would be great to know whether anyone has experienced similar problems with the 4iiii.

    • CMP

      As a possible answer to my own question, I’ve found this thread on the Garmin forums in which a couple of users report no problems with connection between the 4iiii and the fenix 5 (but several report problems with Stages):link to forums.garmin.com

    • I actually used it on some rides (Fenix 5 primarily, not 5X) with the 4iiii units back in February. I didn’t see any issues there either.

  5. astutus

    After reading this article I have bought fenix 5 and I am rather disappointed. To sum up: it would be a good product if it cost 3x cheaper. In my country, you have to spend _whole_ average salary to buy it…
    I wasn’t training before, for me the most important feature is Elevate and it is a real crap. I read in this article it is much better now and that was the most important reason I decided to buy. However, I am not trained person, I am 37 and when I run 3 minutes I can easily get 180 bpm. Moreover, when I train with iron, the watch can’t catch up with my HR. Last time I was walkng/running 5/3 minutes and when I was able to easily breathe during a walk it was showing me 160 bpm… Now I am going to buy HRM-RUN, cause Elevate could be good for well-trained person when they can’t easily increase HR, but for amateurs? it can’t measure.

    What is very good after 2 weeks of using? battery, without BT connection it needs ~ 2% per day, with BT ~ 4%
    I saw people were complaining here, but IMHO it is quite good.

    Other features, “fit” features: sleeping + tracking steps etc. another disaster. I have a small toddler who screams a lot during the nights, I have to wake up and give her dummy. Nothing is registered, I am really disappointed. Steps? last time I was in the toilet and it registered I walked 100 steps… I know it is not important for runners, but come on! it is very expensive, so it should be outstanding!

    • Wojtek

      If you are not training, why did you buy Fenix? I would never spend month salary on a high end triathlon watch if I weren’t much into sports. You should have bought apple watch.

      Anyway, I read also, that optical HR is not working well for weight training, so I would never buy it for such kind of activity.

      Since Fenix 3 I am wondering, why people are buying Fenixes for casual bike riding or breaststroke swimming. It is just so trendy and stylish?

  6. Great review, thanks! I have the Garmin 910 and am happy with its performance. But now I am in the market for the Fenix 5X or Suunto Spartan Ultra Titanium. Can you help me make that choice easier based on the wrist HR versus non , touchscreen versus non-touch screen ( I had the 610 before the 910) and overall performance?

    Thanks !

  7. Shannon Ammerlaan

    Ray,
    I bought a fenix 5 sapphire and am experiencing some issues. I have a Di2 bike and cannot get speed/cadence data on my watch at all. It connects and as soon as I start to ride it disconnects. I have a giant ridesense ant+ sensor. I have a edge 500 mounted and it connects perfectly. After reading your known bugs section I saw this was a bug that is being worked on. Is it going to be fixed because right now the issue is making cadence on my watch unusable

  8. Ivan

    Please give opinion, help, advice…
    This time i will not talk about stryd sensor and occasional dropouts (…not so occasional) , I will talk about GPS and spikes in pace. With so many spikes is almost impossible to have good analysis of pace 1sec pace, 30sec pace, 1 min pace etc. I’m not talking about some track closed with trees etc…
    Is is only me? Only my fenix 5 sapphire? Thanks.

    • Aprianto

      I have similar issue with my Fenix 5 Saphire for a while, it did happen even in open running track with relatively clear sky. However, this morning I noticed that the ver 2.90 update is available to download (Somehow Fenix 5 APAC got it late?) and I ran normally.

      Instant pace showed much improvement with less spiked than before. However I only tried ver 2.90 once for running so it might not be the case

      Try update your firmware

    • Ivan

      Thanks, I’ll do this. I think that there is a difference between few occasional spikes (acceptable) and regular pace spikes (unacceptable)

    • Kyle

      I used my Stryd with an FR630 for about a week before getting my F5X. On the FR630 I would get ~6 dropouts over the course of a 45 minute run. Stryd support told me that they are aware of the issue and should have a firmware release soon to address this.

      Once I switched to the F5X I have not had any dropouts from Stryd at all, but I know this doesn’t help specific to the F5(non X).

    • Ivan

      Thanks again. I checked this before afternoon run. Already have update 2.90. I’ve switched 3d distance and 3d speed off. Today run is without GPS spikes…Didn’t have time to repeat run with 3d speed and 3d distance on.
      I have to try to find best solution. I dont know…

  9. Anna

    I’ve very recently bought a Fenix 5, but feel like there are battery issues. After having charged it to 100% when I got it, and then just leaving it on a desk without using it more, after only 6 days the battery was all emptied out. This surely can’t be right?? A phone for 600 USD that doesn’t even last a week, without even using it? Have anyone experienced the same?

  10. Chris G

    I just got my new Fenix 5 yesterday, and have already noticed a couple of irritating bugs. The resting heart rate shown on the device and the one showed in the Garmin Connect app doesn’t match. The Fenix tells me my RHR is 46 while the app shows 48.

    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!

    • Marvin

      Exactly same issues like me Chris G. been waiting for 3-4 weeks now for a firmware update which hopefully solves the issues.
      Marvin

    • Fred

      I think it’s likely a combination of physics and metrics. At higher speeds your arms are moving quicker which can shake the heavy-ish F5 and throw oHR off, additionally there’s a lag between your actual heart rate and what oHR shows which leads me to believe there’s some post processing of the raw data or maybe a rolling average going on.
      I’ve given up on oHR for fast workouts and races in which I like to know precisely when I push through my LTHR, the old chest strap gives me much better results.

    • Marvin

      In my case Fred – even a light (z1 pace) gives me a wrong HR. (25-30 beats off). I wouldnt mind have to put on a strap for fast or more accurate sessions, but i got the F5 as a daily sports watch, hence i expect the ohr to work accurately (+/- 5 beats).
      Marvin

    • CMP

      I was also a bit frustrated initially by the readings I was getting from the F5 OHR monitor. What has helped for me (I think) is to be sure before starting a workout that the HRM has “locked in” as shown by the heart symbol going solid. Here is an example of the data I’m now getting:

      These are one-minute intervals, a maximum challenge for the OHR. As you can see, there is some “sloppiness” in the graph (look at that third interval, for example) and, while I don’t have comparison data for this workout, graphs from a chest strap HRM of similar sessions are definitely “prettier.” Nevertheless, this data is adequate for my purposes. The F5 OHR also doesn’t produce the 5-7 minute 30-BPM spike that I seem to get at the beginning of pretty much every workout session (despite wetting, licking, etc.) with my Garmin chest strap. I began suspecting that was throwing off all my metrics (VO2 max, etc.), and have decided that I prefer the slightly ragged HR graphs produced by the F5.

      These are initial impressions, however; I’ve had the F5 only for a few weeks.

    • Marvin

      CMP – tried it before i.e. waiting for HR to lock. however same old story – 25/30+ beats.

      When you do a light (zone 1) long distance run do you see any improvements? I noticed that oHR starts giving wrong data not immediately but after 10mins or so….that could explain why for intervals oHR seems to be providing accurate data…

    • Heart rate lock seems to be a bit hit and miss, I drove to canicross last night and started the run app as I drove up to the woods and it instantly locked on for sat nav and heart but by the time I’d parked and got the dog out the app had gone to sleep so restarted and 3 minutes later still wouldn’t lock the heart rate but sat was ok. I could not hang around so started the run and looks like the heart rate took about 20 minutes to kick in. Yes had it tight on the wrist.

      Not a huge problem for me as I usually wear a chest strap and I’d rather have round trip calculations for walking but hope they fix in the next update.

    • CMP

      Well, so much for my theory.

      I’m not doing long zone 1 runs at this point in my training schedule, but I do sometimes observe unrealistically high spikes during 24/7 HR monitoring while walking to work, so maybe there is some consistency with what you’re seeing. My impression, based on limited data and no systematic attempt to confirm, is that this issue has tended to crop up during low intensity activity (brisk walking) whereas readings are more solid during inactivity or higher intensity workouts. I haven’t really worried about it or tried to dig into it further because (so far) it hasn’t much affected training data.

  11. Josh

    Is there a secret to getting Clever Training to respond via email? I ordered an extra band almost 2 weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing in regard to status other than that they charged my card. I sent an email to follow up without any response.

    • Odd, usually you get responses same day, or at worst next morning.

      Any chance it got caught in spam/junk/clutter folders?

      Typically if an item is backordered upon order (and it states that on order), then they don’t usually send updates unless it’s beyond a month or so out (i.e. pre-order). Still, I’ll poke on this.

    • Josh

      I got an update that they haven’t received the bands yet from Garmin. Find it kind of disappointing that their website didn’t state that they were on back order when I placed the order.

    • Hi Josh-

      I checked with Clever Training about this. It sounds like you received an e-mail reply last week in just under 24 hours. They also sent an e-mail to all folks who ordered letting them know about the mismatch in delivery timelines for that item on the site. Also, they sent a secondary e-mail out late last week as normal for all backorders of that item.

      And finally – I got confirmation that the items came in this morning, and will ship out to you today.

      Cheers, and thanks for the support!

    • Josh

      Hmmm…I didn’t receive all of those communications you mention. Who knows what happened, but it’s all good. Thanks for looking into it and responding!

  12. Ethan

    I bought the Fenix 5 a couple weeks ago through Clever Training to support DCR and every week the ship date gets pushed back.

    Anyone else experiencing significant delays in actually getting the Fenix 5 now that it’s released? Is there really a large backorder at Garmin or is Clever Training just not getting any product????

    Thanks!!

    • In general the Fenix 5 backlog has been cleared out up until pretty recent orders, and only on specific models. More than half of the models are in stock. The other models not yet in stock (like some of the Fenix 5S variants) are hard to come by in most places.

    • Ethan

      That was my impression as well. I ordered the Fenix 5 sapphire black/black. Pretty basic it seemed……..

    • Yeah, looking at stock that actually appears to be the only model not in stock today. Though, it says ‘early May’, which likely just means next week.

  13. wojtek

    You are talking about not working training load across multiple devices. But does finally the recovery time work for 2 consecutive activities on the same watch? On FR920XT I believe it took the value always from the last workout (or actually, what last longer, the actual RT or the RT from new workout). Only way to get RT for 2 workouts was doing them as a brick workout…

  14. wojtek

    Is the FTP test different than on other garmin devices? It shows like estimated 18-31 min. I believe up to now it was traditional 20min test.. How does it look like on Fenix5?

    • wojtek

      So I will answer to myself, yes the test is different than the one Ray described for Edge 520. It is based on 4min intervals, each one with higher power range set as target. I am really interested, what algorithm is behind it, I couldn’t find, whether Ray described it already anywhere…
      The test has of course a bug, that I described here: link to forums.garmin.com

  15. Joe mahlo

    Thank you for the most comprehensive review. I just bought my Fenix 5 this morning and l am looking forward to taking it through its pace in Norway next week. I agree with your comments on the Apple Watch: excellent product for its target market.

    Again thanks for great review

  16. wojtek

    Regarding ANT+ connectivity, I believe the problem is not only related to Di2 or Stryd. I had small dropouts with BePROs and even Garmin HRM today…

  17. Adrian Vargas

    Hey Ray,

    Something you have not touched upon in a bit is the advantage/need of using legacy sensors with newer devices like the Fenix 5. You did go into details about the HR strap vs. optical, but still wondering about:

    1) Legacy foot pod vs. wrist based
    2) Bike speed sensor vs. GPS only
    3) Tempe vs. integrated

    Thanks!

    • wojtek

      1. footpod is always better than wrist accelometer
      2. as above, but you need it properly calibrated
      3. integrated temperature sensor is piece of crap. It shows always +5-10 C degrees more than it is, as it is getting warm from your wrist. IMHO it should be possible to disable this metric on garmin connect, as it makes no sense at all

    • Generally agree with wojtek’s assessment.

      I will state that footpod vs accelerometer that for most cases, the wrist based is fine (such as cadence). Where I see variations are higher/lower edges of my normal running paces if indoors on a treadmill (i.e. sprinting). But for middle of the road paces, it’s fine.

      For road riding, I have zero issues using GPS instead of a speed sensor. For mountain biking it’d depend a bit on the terrain – lots of switchbacks and if I cared about speed, I might go speed sensor.

    • Leon

      I totqally agree that for cadence the wrist based accelerometer is fine (same holds for activity tracking).

      But for instant pace (while running) a GPS watch is quite useless imo. I’m speaking about GPS watches in general by the way. A GPS accuracy <5m is quite good, but such accuracy would still lead to jumpy instant paces for relative low speed activities like running since the running distance. Example: when running with a pace = 5:00 min/km the distance in 1 s = 3.33m. This is in the same range as GPS accuracy and could cause jumpy signals.
      So…..if you really want to have a stable and accurate instant pace you´ll have to use a foot pod.
      I mention this since I think it´s important to understand the capabilities (and techniques) of GPS. I'm (very) happy with the fenix 5 and GPS accuracy is good so far, but I'm still using the old foot pod since instant pace is important for me.

    • Just out of curiosity – have you tried the instant pace? I showed it in the video above, and most seem pretty happy with it as well. It’s pretty darn smooth.

    • marklemcd

      Wrist based distance stuff on garmins is trash. When I’m on a treadmill if I use the wrist based accelerometer the faster I make the treadmill the slower the garmin has me going.

    • Leon

      Hi Ray,

      Yes of course 🙂
      Wrist base: link to connect.garmin.com
      foot pod: link to connect.garmin.com

      Note that my running speed is about 5:30 min/km which is quite a bit slower compared to your 7:30 min/mile (=4:40 min/km). So maybe there’s a speed threshold (which would confirm my story above), but for the slower exercises it’s simply not useful. At least not in my case….

      Best regards,
      Leon

  18. Josh

    Optical HRM worked well initially. Now, the last few runs have not been good. Had to turn off and on three times this morning during a trail run. Heart rate was dropping to the 70’s on long climbs and spiking to 170 on downhills. I hope it can be sorted out with software updates. All of the neat load and training status data is thrown out of whack with it not working properly. I liked the simplicity of my previous watch, Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. Less stuff to go wrong.

    • Yannlux

      Maybe related to a common issue where HR was actually reading your cadence (step per minute).
      I had the case but no problem since i updated to firmware to 3.22 (then 3.30).

  19. Delfí

    Amazing, congratulations for this review.

    I bought fenix 5, and this is my first week and I’m very satisfied to buy it.

    Delfí

  20. John

    Hi Ray, great review as always!

    Just a quick one, have you tried fitting the FR935 quick release on the Fenix 5? Someone mentioned that it might fit, but from the photos it almost seems the FR935 has a narrower centre distance between the screws of the bands?

    Thanks!

    • Todd

      Can confirm the Forerunner 935 quick release kit DOES NOT work with the Fenix 5. Really hope they’re planning on releasing one soon. Ray, any news from your contacts at Garmin?

  21. Ross Gray

    What is the “recharge time” on these models?

  22. Donald Barnes

    Ray, I’ve got a new one for you. Did a couple rides recently using my 5x on the MTB on a new trail network that has some stuff REAL close to a road. On both rides, I got bad map data JUST in that one section. And it looks EERILY like it’s because it did some kind of “snap to grid” kind of thing. The data isn’t the same in both cases, but both look like they could be explained by that.

    And yes, I did select “Bike” mode and not “MTB” for this ride, simply because I didn’t think it mattered which one I chose. I *only* use my 5x for biking on the ONE bike I have with an SRM power meter. On all my other MTBs I use a Wahoo ELEMENT, but they’re STILL not talking to SRMs for some reason.

    Can you confirm that “Bike” is really “Road Bike” and is doing this on purpose? Obviously next time I’ll try “MTB” when I ride there, but it REALLY looks like this is what’s going on. I’ve scoured your page for every instance of “mountain” and “MTB” and seen no mention of this “feature”, but I admit to not having read over everything again.

  23. Stealth

    Hi Ray,

    Great review, thanks a lot!

    My wrist size is also 17 cm, just like yours.
    Does the 5X really feels that big (as in too (way too) big) and is it really a no-go or … ?
    Thanks in advance!

    Ps: I know you find it big too … bit is it TOO big in wearing for our wrist-size?

  24. Mat

    Hi Ray, thanks for a great review site. I hear the Fenix 5 does offer navigation and courses but am confused as to you comments about only the Fenix 5X offers routing capabilities. Can I ask you: does the Fenix 5 allow for maps to be downloaded and followed (similar to the 735XT, which offers great trail routing) or is that a feature that only the Fenix 5X delivers? Thanks a lot. Mat

  25. Christina Marble

    Will you be able to compare the Quatix 5 with the other multi sport watches as it is based on the fenix platform with additional water functionalities?

  26. ToniM

    Ray,
    Do you think we would find fenix 5 connector adapters in the near future? (from Garmin or third parties) It would be nice to just take a USB to microUsb cable, a Garmin Fenix 5 adapter and a lighting adapter so I have all my gadgets covered in my backpack.
    By the way has the new connector a name? If I recall correctly, I read it would be the connector for all the new Garmin devices.

    • I haven’t seen any 3rd parties getting into the business of making connectors for them.

      We have seem them use it in some new products (like the FR935), but yet not others like the Vivosmart 3.

  27. GERARD RYAN

    Super in-depth review…thank you.

  28. Chris

    Route calculation error every time I try to use round trip… It brings up the route,I select it start the run and at some point within the first mile it dies ?

  29. MK

    Hi Ray,
    Thank you for your informative reviews! I have small wrists. I used to have a Forerunner 235 but that was too large for myself. I downgraded to a “small” Forerunner 25 but I miss the feature of sending my workouts to watch and knowing vo2 number. Would you or anyone recommend the Fenix5s or the Forerunner 735xt? I am open to either watch long as it is smaller watch face and wrist straps! Thank you

  30. JW

    Thank you for reviews. But more watching the reviews, more difficult to choose one if them. I’m considering vivoactive hr, fenix3 hr, fenix 5 or spartan sport wrist hr. In Korea, I can buy vivo=250$, fenix3hr=480$, fenix5=750$, spartan wrist hr=440$. Which do you recommend? Use for running, swimming, crossfit, HIIT without extra heart rate monitor. I prefer accurate heart rate. Is spartan heart rate monitor beat garmin Elevate?? But spartan has issues some sync problems.

  31. KingArt

    How do I install a .gmap Topo map file onto the Fenix 5X? This is so confusing!

  32. Todd Christoffer

    Average Resting heart rate for the past 7 days does not display on my F5. I tried to search the vermin forums and got nothing. Does anyone have an idea if there is a setting I need to change? Firmware is up to date afaik. Thank you

    • Did you press the button within the resting HR screen to ‘dive deeper’ and show you the other screens?

    • Todd Christoffer

      I think so, when I press the down arrow (lower left button) from the clock the last 4 hours displays my heart rate and trend, then i pressed the start/stop button (upper right)to show the last 7 days Avg. RHR but there is no data shown on the graph.

    • Hmm, odd.

      That’s definitely the place for it. Does it show up on Garmin Connect Mobile?

    • todd christoffer

      in health stats under All Day Heart Rate the display says “no data available”

    • Is the HR sensor turning on (green light on bottom of watch)?

      If not – double-check in the sensors settings that somehow it hasn’t become disabled.

    • todd christoffer

      yes the sensor is on and displays my current HR and the last 4 hours. Also it works fine during activities. It is just the Avg RHR screen that has no data.

    • Hmm, yeah, something funky then.

      I’d ring up Garmin support. My guess is that they have some sort of easy answer here. But just not sure what it is to me. :-/

    • todd christoffer

      Thank you Ray. I will give them a ring today and post it if they have a solution.

    • todd

      So it turns out you have to have activity tracking turned on in order to get the average RHR. Seems odd that counting steps would have anything to do with the heart rate sensor metrics, but that was the solution to seeing the resting heart rate.

  33. Ivan

    Anyone with answer or same problem…. I have training status on fenix 5, on garmin connect desktop but not on mobile (iOS). It’s not necessary but it will be good to have this. Thanks in advance.

  34. Dave

    Great watch in all respects expect one – lousy GPS measurement. On a 7.25 mile trail, I get anywhere from 5.3 to 6.1. My old 310 provides more accurate and consistent measurements.

    • Are you using GPS+GLONASS and 1 second recording ? I run trails in woods and not had a problem. Also is it out on the watch or Strava. I’ve noticed a 9.4km run last night was 9.4 on the watch, Garmin Connect and the Strava app (I like to double record just in case) yet the auto import into Strava suddenly had it at 9.7k

    • Agree, was going to recommend the exact same thing.

  35. Ryan

    Does anyone know for Navigation if the distance from your current position to a previously assigned waypoint on a route is “as-the-crow-flies” or actual distance along the route? i.e. If I’m hiking and there are switchbacks, will the Fenix5 or 5x register that I have 25 switchbacks to hike up (and thus another 3 miles of hiking) and that I am not just walking straight up the side of the mountain and suggest I only have 0.25 miles left (***made up distances***)?

  36. Austin

    I’ve been using the Fenix 5 for over a month, and I have zero issues running and swimming with it. When it comes to the bike, I can’t say the same. When compared to my edge 820, I see multiple dropouts (HRM, P1s, Dzero) on both my road and tri bike. Also, it is pancake flat where I live and a normal ride will have about 80 ft of elevation change in 15 miles, but the watch is showing 250 ft. Is this par for the course for wrist based elevation? Previously had a FR220 so no baro with that. Elevation looks great while running.

    I want to like the watch, but I am trying to figure out if mine is just faulty or if this is just the poorer signal strength that you talked about above. I’ve used the latest firmware 3.30 and didn’t change either issue on the bike. Thanks for the great reviews.

  37. thebucket

    Hi, Is there a way to migrate old workout files from my fenix 3 to my fenix 5? My intention is to speed up the VO2max-, trainingload- and stress calculations

  38. cherrib

    Hi!

    I’ve looked through the comments and don’t see anyone else mentioning my issue. In comparing treadmill runs with a VivoActive HR (what I have been using for about a year) and a Fenix 5S sapphire (2 days old), I’m. Getting a big difference in distance and pace. For example, on a 28-minute fairly steady run, the VivoActive HR showed I ran 4.47 km with an average pace of 5.23/km. The Fenix 5S sapphire showed I ran 5.86 km with an average pace of 4:07/km. I got a similar variation today on an interval run.

    I’ve checked weight, height, etc. Theybare the same on both devices. Any reason why I am getting this big of a difference? I run to improve endurance for cycling. Honestly, I’m not sure which of the two devices is measuring correctly.

    I appreciate any help. Thank you.

    • Ryan M.

      At two days in with the Fenix it’s more likely that at the moment the Vivoactive is more accurate. Have you run outside with the vivoactive over the past year?

      The accelerometer calibrates itself when you run outside using GPS. If you have run outside with the Vivoactive it would have automatically adjust your stride length. The default calibration factor on the Fenix could be off.

      Try doing a few runs outside with the GPS enabled and then see how they compare.

    • cherrib

      I have not been outside with it yet. I’ll take it for a run outside tomorrow. I’m sure it could use the fresh air after being cooped in a box all that time.

      Thank you very much!

  39. MICHAEL COLLINS

    Ray,

    On the fenix 5, to setup a VASA erg as a sport, is my only option to copy the indoor bike profile. I dont seem to be able to get the ant+ power to read if I copy a pool swim. Ideally, a pool swim spot would be the referred option to be able to time as if I were doing a pull set in the pool.

    Thanks for reading,

    Mike

  40. Brandon

    My heart rate doesn’t seem to register as accurately with weight training. Have you lifted weights with the Fenix 5x at all to see how it varies? Would you recommend a different HRM? Thanks.

  41. Hi Ray,

    Can you comment please on the never ending multisport mode ? I checked out what you said, in normal trail-running mode and in 2 different multisport modes and I just cannot get an unlimited multisport mode going on.

    You know that in the spartan just by pressing the middle button long during any activity we can access a real unlimited multisport function.

    In the Fenix 5 I cannot get beyond 5 predetermined activities and I cannot choose them randomly. If it was possible, would you make a short 2min demonstration as youtube video please ?

    Merci et courage
    Levi

  42. Hi Ray,

    Second question today 😀 I am getting on with a review too, so I need some insights from other than myself 😀
    I compared the GPS precision of the Fenix 5 and other devices and I bumped into the exact same issues like I had on Fenix 3 & 920 or the FR630, but unfortunately even the GPSMAP 64 series !

    Compared to Sirfstar IV / V equipped devices they always mess up in serious situations. Let’s say alpine snowfields, via ferrate, simply near tall walls, deep and steep high altitude forests, above water surface. I work in an outdoor shop with all my colleagues being outdoor persons, so the F3 and F5 was tested during alpine skiing and ski mountaineering , but also ice climbing or paddle boarding. GPS knots and huge 1000+ km jumps happen with all Mediatek devices way too often. (I once had a 58000 km gpx file created during a rock climb+approach while the spartan stayed on the 11km distance properly. 58thousand !!!)

    Did you ever compare the Garmin 610(sirfstar) to Garmin 620(Mediatek) ? Interestingly same thing happen !

    Can you comment on this please ? I mean how can the Spartan ultra provide a knot free proper GPS track while the Garmin 64s with it’s huge outer antenna or the newly redesigned shielded technology of the F5 just cannot ?

    I mean it is not a trend, like on every outing, but it happens too often especially when at altitude, so seemingly there is an issue.

    Thanks

    LEvi
    (Glonass turned on or off, with or without WAAS/EGNOS – in 1 sec recording and signal acquiring rate )

  43. Percy White

    Hi Ray,

    You mentioned in your review that you can use the Stryd Connect IQ data field to get the running dynamics data – i have downloaded the Stryd app and added the Stryd Connect IQ datat field to the fenix 5s but it isn’t working – would i need to buy a Stryd Power Meter to enable the upload of the data ?

    Cheers
    Regards
    Percy

  44. Egi

    Hi Ray
    I get confused with the way how F5 calculates the RHR.
    So when I wear it 24/7, I ge the daily RHR already during the night, let say at 2 AM. The values are around 60-70 beats. But I can see that my daily HR values go low as 45 several times and for some time, so those are not peaks.
    When I do not wear the watch during the sleep, the RHR gets updated during the day and it stays around 45 – so coresponds to the values of lowest values of the HR beats.
    Is this a bug in SW? How shall I interpret the difference in the values?
    Thanks for any insight!

    • Stealth

      Are also very interested in this matter, as RHR and accurecy is very important for me.
      Thanks in advance!

    • Nigel

      What Egi describes is my experience as well–and I read somewhere (I think in the online manual haha) that that is in fact the official Garmin methodology: if you wear it during sleep it uses your average HR through the night to calculate RHR, and daytime readings won’t affect the RHR value. If you don’t wear it during sleep, then your lowest daytime reading (over some time period–one minute or so?) becomes the RHR value.

      My lowest daytime reading is ALWAYS lower than the average over the night, sometimes by 10+ bpm, which makes me think their method is quite faulty. It sucks to have to take it off at night and lose the sleep tracking in order to gain what I think is the more accurate RHR.

    • Egi

      Hi, I just got answer from Garmin support that actually the functionality is like you described. The only interesting part is that the Watch itself does not perform the Sleep analysis. The movement paterns are synced to Connect and only there the time when you went to bed and woke up based on movements is determined.
      So I aked how does the watch itself knows when I am sleeping (you get the RHR without conenction to Connect) The answer is the setup of the normal sleeptimes which have in your user settings.
      According to support, the watch in case I have it on my wrist, calculate 22:00-5:30 as sleeping time based on my setup. So I will do a test and setup my sleeptime from 06:00-06:01 and see what happens…

      But I agree, it sucks as I would like to have lowest RHR during the day plus sleep tracking.

  45. Ethan

    Just got the Fenix 5 to replace my 3…..and now I’ve got a dumb question.

    I went through the original on-screen prompts and then put it back in the box (moving over last couple days) and opened it back up to find a help screen on. Any chance that message has been there for a day plus? Is there any concern for screen burn?

    Thanks!!

  46. Al Bister

    So heres a new one, I think, Ive read through the comments and can’t find anyone else having the same problem…

    I keep getting issues with the treadmill pace after I’ve done a slow run outside. It appears as if the ‘buckets’ of data it uses to calculate the indoor pace gets overwritten with the ‘slow’ run data and all the ‘normal/faster’ data disappears.

    Sundays treadmill run with slow data.
    link to connect.garmin.com

    the week previous with normal/fast data
    link to connect.garmin.com

    Hill reps outside yesterday, this yielded different results again on todays treadmill tempo run…

    link to connect.garmin.com

    Still not correct as I increased the pace, the Fenix 5 went for a wander to 4.40/km instead of 4.20/km!! Arghhhhh!!

    Using the same treadmill for all the runs. Fenix is on 3.30 firmware.

    Anyone else experiencing this problem? Is it my watch or a software problem, never had the issue with the Fenix 3 or the HR version!

  47. Joel LaFrance

    Spectacular review as always! I’d be interested in hearing more insight from you and/or others on their experience with the Fenix 5 optical HR accuracy. I have been having LOUSY results and accuracy over the last 4 weeks with mine. It’s at a point where I consider it reliable ‘enough’ for capturing resting HR & general activity HR data throughout the day—but true activity HR data I completely ignore due to inaccuracy. It’s completely worthless data especially during intervals or anything > Level 1 training. I’ve used it for 30+ training hours across running, biking, and rollerskiing and the accuracy across the sports seems to be consistently poor. I’ve tried different tightnesses, different wrist positioning, and even shaving a circle of hair off under the band to maximize it’s ‘read’. Any suggestions would be greatly welcome. Looks like I’ll have to continue to use the old Garmin band paired for workouts where I need good data.

    • CMP

      I don’t know. I’ve been using heart rate monitors for 25 to 30 years and none of them has ever been particularly glitch-free. While the f5 has different foibles from some others, I find that overall it is not much worse than typical and is mostly sufficient for my training needs. Here, for example, is my workout from yesterday, which consisted of 12x1minute intervals–a particularly tough case for an ORHM. You can see that there is some raggedness and a few errant readings (e.g., the HR drops after the 1st, 6th and 9th intervals seem to have lagged somewhat), but it accurately shows the gist of what I was doing and why, really, do I need more accuracy? I still use a chest strap or Schoshe OHRM for certain workouts and when I ride the bike (since I mount the fenix on the handlebars). But more and more, I’m finding that the f5’s OHRM is adequate and using it means I have one less thing to worry about.

    • CMP

      Here, by the way, is a recent interval workout where I was using a Garmin chest belt HRM. The intervals are cleaner but look at the ridiculous spikes at the beginning of the workout, which are probably 40BPM higher than my actual heart rate in that section. I prefer the f5’s errors over these.

    • Joel LaFrance

      Below is a snapshot of some 4x 3 minute trail running intervals. The red line is approximately where the HR *should* be. You can see by the elevation profile (green line) that I was running a hill profile for the intervals, and within the first 20 seconds I was completely red-lining during these—HR should have been in the range of 175-185bps. So this isn’t a typical case of minor +/- 5 bps error rates, or delays in picking up the HR…these are 30-40 bps errors. I wish I could have the Fenix pick up the data from both optical and an external monitor to compare/contrast further. Outside of these significant differences, I do still see the general differences other people note—but I tend to ignore those because they don’t significantly impact the average or how I utilize the data in training. What bothers me is it causes the data to jack up the interpretations of where my overall fitness is at–in this case overstating. If the VO2 calcs utilize HR/pace data, then this would feed it completely poor data. A Kenyan on drugs couldn’t run these hills at this pace with a HR of 120-140 (Ok…well, maybe…but thats a different discussion).

    • CMP

      Agree that doesn’t look very good! Something that seems to have made a big difference for me is waiting to be sure that the on board HRM “locks” between the second and third press of the red “go” button as shown by a permanently solid heart symbol (I’ve seen it go solid and then start blinking, so I’ve taken to waiting through this sequence) and a reasonable HR reading (sometimes when first put into activity mode I find the watch giving wonky HR numbers for a minute or two). My impression is that ensuring this results in better HR readings throughout the workout. But if you’re doing all that, wearing it correctly, have updated software, and still are having problems, maybe you’re just one of those who doesn’t have good luck with OHRMs. I’m perhaps the opposite, since chest straps have always been inconsistent for me.

    • Reed

      Yeah, I agree that there is room for improvement when it comes to calculating VO2 max and race predictions. I have had the same issues where my garmin failed to pick up OHR properly, and then inflated my VO2 max as a result.

      At the same time, I found that when trail running (technical trails w/ 10:00-minute kilometers) and especially when running with a stroller, Garmin shortchanges my fitness. If I do a few stroller runs, my VO2 goes down drastically, as do my predicted race times. Maybe one day this can be accounted for.

    • Reed

      One more thing re: needing a “Stroller mode”: When running w/ stroller steps are not counted properly (due to hand on stroller). A 20k run gives me approx 8000 steps only, if that.

    • Yeah, with bad HR data you’ll get bad VO2Max data and thus bad race predictions.

      I’ve actually had reasonably good luck with the stroller and the Fenix5 and FR935. However, depending on your grip, that can impact things. I tend to be pretty light-touch with the stroller, so that might make it easier.

    • Chris

      My OHR seems to be correct – but in the last week, my VO2 has gone STUPID high – every day it goes up by 1 (currently at 57). The garmin connect still shows the 53 that is closer to my ballpark – and where my previous watches all had me. I’ve been using the Fenix 5x for about 4 weeks and it was stable until this last 7 days.

  48. Stealth

    Ok, what’s up with the Fenix 5?

    I mean, as a senior It-er for a few decades I really know that nothing’s bug-free (!) 😉
    But otherwise, for a high-end watch (probably the most advanced as today – there’s still no Polar V800 successor after 3 years) I have a general question, as I’m not an expert on this domain.

    Is the 5 (not S or X) really recommended as one of ‘The Best’? I know I a chest-HR (like Garmin HRM-Tri or Polar H10) or for weight lifting a Scosche Rhythm+) is recommended …

    The BMR/Calorie-calculations are also important for me personally. How about the activity tracking (versus Polar for example?)

    Let’s say … if not in a real athletic run … can we trust Garmin is fixing the issues with accuracy in the (near) future by FW-updates? So that it becomes a very reliable measuring instrument (as far as possible within this price tag of course! 😉

    *** In short: looking for the reliable, as a non-professional athlete. Green light for the Garmin Fenix 5? (Considering that improvements will follow through FW updates). What do the experts think about this?***

    Thank you very, very much in advance!

    • For weight lifting, most wrist-based optical HR sensors will struggle. That’s why a Scosche tends to be quite good for lifting, as it’s on a place that doesn’t get as much fluctuation from a readings perspective.

      I don’t see Polar as competitive in this portion of the market anymore. Nor do I expect any V800 successor this year.

    • Stealth

      Super thank you Ray! Everything about asking a rest: Does Garmin work out the mistakes within time (by FW-updates)? As in: Safe to purchase a Fenix for the next years?

      Ps: my wrist is also 17 cm. I found the FX to be too big, even though it would be true. But there are Topo (offline) cards for iPhone and Apple Watch, so I have alternatives to the other wrist;)

      Thank you very much. And yes, Polar V800 successor … I can wait and wait for this one, but after 3 years …. and I must admid: I like the look of a F5 above a V800 and a bulky ‘plastic fantastic’ as the M600. I mean: Polar GPS-tracker and HR are ‘top’. But, no upgrades? Don’t like this, as for example with those two: there is a lot to improve and simple: why not a revision of the M600, with the small screen versus bulky rubber? Don’t get it, I’m afraid 😉 Thanks for watching! And I hope a final answer ;)) Keep up the great work!!!

    • Generally speaking most bugs tend to get worked out pretty quickly. At least the biggest blockers. Of course like any product new bugs come along after other bugs are fixed. The hope is that those are odd edge cases that don’t impact you, or such.

      If there’s any time to buy a Fenix, it’s now. Only because it’s just come out – so you’ve got a long while till a new one comes out.

    • Occamsrazor

      I’m also on the fence about Fenix 5. The large amount of negative reports over issues such as GPS accuracy, Bluetooth range, and ANT+ range is concerning. Coupled with what seems to be any acknowledgement from Garmin. I’m aware that online you will always get more negative reports. If it’s clear that such issues can be fixed by future firmware updates then fine, but not everything has it’s roots in firmware-fixable solutions, and it’s a lot of money to lay down.

    • Chris

      I think everyone’s mileage is a bit different – I’ve had no issues at all with GPS – it’s spot on, Bluetooth is flawless, no issues with ANT+ either – but I have the 5X and don’t use a power meter. The only issues I’ve seen are small (aside from I’ve yet to have a successful run with the navigation on the 5x). If I were purchasing the watch, I’d just stick with the 5 or 5s – the mapping is novelty – but hey – maybe they’ll fix it down the road – if not, I’ll live… The firstbeat software is amazing!

  49. Arnout

    Anyone in the Bay Area (California) who has a suggestion where I can get a replacement charge cable for my watch? Rei and sport basement Sunnyvale were no luck. Need to charge before Sunday bay to breakers. Thanks.

    • For whatever reason, almost no local vendors bother to stock charger cables.

      However, REI would have Fenix 5 (and probably even FR935) units on display. As such, they’d have charging cables there. My bet is if you asked really nicely, the guys and gals at the counter where the GPS watches are would likely let you charge your watch for 20-30 minutes no problem.

  50. Peter

    Hi,

    Could somebody help me verify whether I have US topo maps on my fenix 5x? I can’t see it as an option in the maps menu or in Garmin express and the maps seems very high level. no countours, lakes etc. I have the US version.

    thanks for the help!

  51. Ralph

    First, thanks for the extensive review!!

    I have to decide between suunto and garmin, what do you think is the better option for me, the Sport Wrist HR oder the fenix 5.

    My daily claim
    – see some statistics over the day (steps, cal, sleep etc..)
    – 2-4 running units a week (sometimes also bike, swim or hike)
    – and i don’t want to charge it every day

    I read that so many people are dissatisfied with the quality of suuntos firmware, is the fenix 5 firmware better?

    And my last question whats about the sync i know the suunto users are pissed of from the suunto sync, it crashes very often. Whats about the garmin?

    Thank you in advance!

    • wojtek

      Sorry for that, but such amount of training you definitely don’t need such fancy & expensive triathlon/multisport watch. Forerunner 235 would fulfill all your requirements…

    • Ralph

      Thanks :),i already read some reviews of the Forerunner, and they all say the battery life isn’t the best.

      I forgot..
      – the watch should also track a full day (or two) of ski touring in winter season (i think there is a problem with the forerunner)
      – and this summer i want to start to train for a triathlon

      I’m searching for a smart watch (a little bit nerdy) which replaces my ambit 2.

  52. wojtek

    Hi Ray,
    do you know the algorithm behind Recovery Time? I believe, its limited to single activity, and the watch presents the “higher one” (from current or previous workout) Its seems not to take any consecutive workouts. These observation are from Fenix 5, but it was the same on 920XT

    Lets see an example: I go for a 4h bike ride and have 17h recovery as the result. Immediately I go for a 20min run. After the run, my recovery time is 15h… Does it make sense? By adding additional running to training, the recovery time should increase, not decrease.

    Furthermore, I believe, that if I do a hard running workout in the evening, that results with 42h of suggested recovery time. On next morning I do a swimming workout, and It does not affect recovery time at all. In the evening I do a hard cycling workout and I get 17h recovery time. So it seems: 42 – 24 – 1(about the workout duration) – so swimming or cycling does not affect recovery time from the workout a day ago…

  53. Drew Lanier

    Hey DCR: what are the widgets that you would recommend over and above that are pre-installed on the Fenix 5X? Just bought it and it is great! Thx for the great reviews.

  54. Ryan

    Love the article. I had, and just lost, a Fenix 3. One feature I’m interested in, and don’t believe it’s still available in the 5x is the ability to input gps coordinates as a destination- such as while in a wooded area you’re given coordinates to track to. Am I correct that this is not available?

    Thank you

    • Jeremy

      This is available on all new Fenix models.

    • hiker

      This answer can be misleading.

      The thing is, Fenix 5/5s models (i.e. the ones without topo-mapping) can let you manually input coordinates for destination and let you navigate to it but “routing” to that destination is like a bird-flight (i.e. a straight line).

      On the other side, with 5X (i.e. the one with topo-mapping) the result is the sam as with 5/5S *unless* the topo-map you are using can provide a route to your destination.

      So, in order to get a route to arbitrary destination one must have a topo-map which provides a route to that destination. That’s the one reason some maps are more expensive 🙂

      Just my $0.02

  55. Maitai

    Hi,
    Great review as always. As a girl with small wrists I’m thinking the 5s is what I want for ironman and cycling etc. (I loved my polar rcx5 but upgraded to tom tom and really dislike it).
    Just wondering is it worth forking out the extra $$$ for wi-fi. I upload every workout to training peaks and strava as soon as I get home but this is via Bluetooth.
    At this stage I was hoping to save the $150 as it doesn’t seem like much of an advantage but don’t want to regret it if I am spending so much money in the first place.

    Thanks

  56. Jim C.

    Are the buckles on the bundled straps color matched to the bezel?

    Looks like this is the case for the Silver editions, but what about Graphite and Black Sapphire?

    What is the buckle color on the replacement/accessory straps?

  57. Jon McGowan

    What a thorough review , brilliant , that you . Only thing you missed out on is Golf . I , as well as many of my mates are Golfers and , well we are looking at a watch that does everything , especially golf. How accurate is the GPS re Golf ? How user friendly is the software ? Would you ( Or perhaps someone who plays Golf ) recommend this watch for the sport ? Can you link other sensors to your game , i.e. Distance walked , steps , elevation etc ?

  58. Dave

    Hi Ray,

    I have the 5x for a couple of weeks now and it seems like the GPS track accuracy is way off the charts. In particular I keep getting squiggly tracks in a segment of my run that passes a few tall buildings (in Singapore)… would rebuilding the EPO file help?

    Any advise much appreciated!

    Dave.

    • Getting the EPO file is a good start, but you may want to let the the unit soak outside. In theory your first run/activity would have done that – but sometimes it’s good to simply put it somewhere with a clear view of the sky and just do a 20-30 minute activity.

      (Note, I’m not 100% certain though on how soaking works on the Fenix 5).

    • Dave

      Thanks!

  59. steve

    Hi, could the new fenix 5x changeable straps be fitted to the fenix 3hr sapphire please?

  60. Marco

    I cannot connect to the Shimano Di2, what to do any advice anyone?

  61. Hayley Winder

    Is there any news on whether a quick release kit will be available for the Fenix 5s?

  62. Kiley

    Am I reading correctly that Fenix 3 has double the battery life of the Fenix 5?

  63. Thomas Himmler

    Hi, I always read your reviews and I really like them. But this time I don´t agree with you at all. The fenix 5 is actually far away from being the best watch Garmin ever made. You don´t mention ant+ or bluetooth sensor problems. Can it be that it´s not a general problem. I read about it in some forums.
    I don´t get a connection to my stages powermeter via ant+. And my viiiiva heart rate strap works but with a lot of connection issues. The connection gets lost frequently during training. It´s the same with stages and bluetooth connection. And also if I connect my fenix to my tacx neo I experience the same. I had and still have no connection issues with my edge 820. And I had no problems with my good old fenix 3.
    Can you please tell me if you heard about it already? Or is it just a problem of some watches and I have to send it back to Garmin to get a new one?

    Garmin support told me that I´ll have to wait for firmware updates, but for me it´s strange that some testers like you did not experience those problems.
    Thanks

    • Charles

      Hi Ray, I’d have to agree with this poster. It’s a bit disconcerting that this seems to be an issue for at least a number of Fenix 5 customers (myself included), and I’m getting the same answer from Garmin to “wait for firmware updates.” You’re the best with in-depth reviews so the fact you don’t mention it suggests you didn’t experience these problems which I get, but with your Garmin contacts is there anyway you can check with them to see what the hell is going on with this issue? Hoping we can get something more definitive than “wait for a firmware update”. Thanks as always for all you do.

    • Hi Guys-

      I’m not clear what review your reading. Did you read my review where in the ‘Bugs & Quirks’ section I talked about sensor drops?

      It’s here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      I talk explicitly about the drops I saw with the Fenix5 and certain sensor types.

      The challenge with sensor types is that while sometimes there are cases of issues between two devices that are consistent (i.e. Stryd and certain Fenix 5 models), many times dropouts are more environmental/bike/user driven. Meaning it could be the interference from your bike/person is what pushes it over the line. Then of course there’s just Stages, which simply has a long history of having sensor dropouts with Garmin wrist wearables when no other power meters do. If you have Stages issues, some people are switching over to BLE and having a good time there.

      I would not expect any differences between one Fenix 5 versus another Fenix 5. However there are antenna/chip differences between a Fenix 5s and a Fenix 5 and a Fenix 5X.

      In any case, the point of my comment is that I did very much include this within my post above – a whole section dedicated to it.

    • Thomas Himmler

      Hi,
      sorry but I cannot find a section about it. First you wrote about some possible issues with bluetooth powermeter connections and you finish by saying:
      “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.”

      Well I have to worry because I get no connection with ant+ and stages at all. And I had no problems with stages and my fenix 3. And the picture I attached was recorded with bluetooth stages connection and heartrate strap viiiiva via ant+. It makes no difference if I use the garmin tri hr strap. It’s almost the same dropouts.
      Later on in the bugs section you mention ant+ dropouts but you say that it just happens while connecting with di2. I have no di2 pod, so I don’t use this connection at all. Is it true that you just have those dropouts when you are connected to shimano?

      Or do I understand it wrong. Probably my english is not good enough but I cannot find a word about my issues.

      Thanks for your reply anyway. I know that you are not to blame but I just missed that in your deep reviews and was wondering if I have a damaged sensor in my watch.

      Regards,
      Thomas

    • In the bugs section I discussed the dropouts I saw:

      A) Stryd running power meter
      B) Shimano Di2 ANT Connection

      If your Fenix can’t find/pair your power meter at all (via ANT+), that’s honestly something else entirely different than what some folks are seeing.

      Similarly, by the sounds of what you’re saying – you’re actually not getting the issue some people are seeing if you’re getting drops on the Garmin HRM-TRI strap too. I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone have issues there. Nor do I think I’ve heard much on BLE dropouts from Stages either.

      Thus, I’d look to try and reset the unit (do a full hard reset), and if that can’t find your Stages, or if you’re seeing dropouts with heart rate straps (again, unheard of), then I’d call Garmin as your unit is somehow defective.

      The issues some people are seeing in some units are connecting to sensors that could be further from their wrists (i.e. on their shoes while running, a trainer while cycling in certain positions, or certain power meters in certain positions).

      Cheers.

    • Thomas

      Thanks for your reply. I’ll try factory reset. I’m afraid the issues are bigger than expected.
      I found this message from Stryd:

      link to the5krunner.com

      So there seem to be more people with my kind of issues. Probably I should have chosen the fenix 5x. I hope Garmin can do something against it.
      Thanks
      Thomas

  64. Nicolas Londono

    Quick question, how well does the fénix 5 track sleep. Do you prefer to use a act tracker for that. If sow then what you recomendation sow as not having to wear two devices. Specially during sleeping.

    Thanks

  65. Chris

    Hello, I’m have both Edge 820 and Fenix 5, I’m wondering is there a way to see training effects/status after completing training on 820. Let’s say I’m completing some training session on Edge, and after sync Fenix shows me updated training status.

  66. Morten Rokke

    Hi
    Thanks for a great blog! Love it!
    I’ve recently bought the Fenix 5 and I don’t seem to get the automated shift between data screens. Any idea on what I should do? Apologies if this is covered in your material above.

    Thanks

    Morten

    • Phil

      Hi Morten.
      The Auto Scroll feature is OFF by default.
      To turn it on, select your activity then Long Press the UP button and select the Activity Settings.
      Scroll down and select Auto Scroll. The options are Off, Slow, Medium & Fast.
      Hope this helps.
      Good health.

    • Morten Rokke

      Hi Phil
      Thanks! Sorry, I didn’t mention that I had selected Auto scroll, medium. Apparantly, you need to restart the watch to get the feature working. And it did.
      Thanks again. Morten

  67. xec

    Hello.
    Anyone has notice that “Trail Run” is no longer avaliable as App?

    • Phil

      I had the same problem.
      I contacted Technical support, they told me to do a Master Reset. I done this and “Trail Run” magically appeared.
      Can’t help thinking if anything else is missing though.
      Hope it works for you.
      Good health.

    • Xec

      Thanks! I gonna try

  68. Troy Jones

    Great report Ray, thanks.

    I went out for a run with my new Fenix 5s and my new Scosche Rhythm+ today.

    When I returned and synced to my phone I noticed that the HR data wasn’t included in the all day rate rate section on Garmin Connect. It had recorded it within the activity just fine, but not the all day HR data/screen….

    Any clues on why this is so? Thanking in advance.

    • Hmm, that’s odd. Was something blocking the optical HR sensor by chance? If not – then sounds like there may be some sort of new bug introduced.

    • Troy Jones

      Thanks for the quick reply Ray. Not sure, I’ve restarted the watch as it looked like the “Last 4 hours” data wasn’t moving along, like it was stuck.

      I’ve got the wrist HR set on auto and I just thought that the Rhythm+ would take priority when recording the HR. However, just typing this at the computer, the Fenix 5 optical sensor lights are still going whilst the Rhythm+ is on. Do I need to turn the wrist HR off before using an external HR?

      Troy

    • It’ll auto-switch back and forth between them. The Rhythm+ won’t be used for 24×7 data, though I’m not 100% sure how it handles the 24×7 data fill (like that chart) when in sport. I’d have though (and know from other tidbits) that it uses the HR sensor data. But perhaps there’s a newly introduced bug there.

    • Troy Jones

      I’ve looked further into my data on Garmin Connect web.

      Turns out that the Fenix didn’t record (it seemed like it was measuring) anything from 11:30am on Sunday until about 5pm Monday….. I’ve done the old trick, turn it off and back on again and it is recording. I’ve also given the bottom of the watch a wash under the tap.

    • Troy Jones

      OK, that makes sense that the Rhythm+ isn’t used for the 24×7 data. Thanks Ray.

      I did a test run doing a “Cardio” workout whilst on the computer for 10 minutes and the Fenix OHR wasn’t active, only the Rhythm+. The HR data showed up in Garmin Connect even when I deleted the workout off the Fenix and re-synced.

      Hopefully all should be good now.

      PS. I must say that this is pretty awesome bit of kit. A massive step up from my Tomtom runner cardio. I wore it to school today (I’m a teacher) and it was interesting to see my HR during the day. It’ll be good to see it on Garmin connect at the end of the day tomorrow now that it’s showing up properly.

  69. Niall

    No mention of Golf functionality. Does this product not support Golf?

  70. michelle

    Hi!! i just bought the 5s in white and was wondering if you noticed it got dirty? this is my first expensive gps watch, i had the fitbit surge. I’m debating if its worth returning and getting the 5s sapphire all black. thank you!!

    • Evo

      i have the white 5S and so far it has not gotten dirty. i wear it everyday and i cycle almost daily and i run 3x a week. it’s been over a month now. hope this helps.

  71. Patrick Hare

    I’m awaiting the arrival of my 5x for an upcoming JMT trip. I plan on downloading the TOPO US 24K map to chart my progress. Hoping to store my intended camping sites and determine and log my progress.

    My question is this: Does GPS or Ultratrac need to be ON in order to determine location/progress on a map? If so, will it still log/track/store my progress if I only turn it on for a few minutes every couple of hours to save battery life?

    Thanks in advance for your answer, and thanks in any case for this and your other excellent and helpful reviews!

  72. Shane

    Hi,

    Great review, it answered all my questions bar one…I’m old and my eyes prefer a bigger screen, so I’d prefer to sync the watch with my tablet instead of my phone, has anyone had any success doing this (Samsung Galaxy Tab 9.7, Android 6.0, blue tooth 4.1)

    I’m currently using a Polar M400, but I can only sync with my phone or PC, and as I said, I’d much rather use my tablet.

    Thanks

    Shane

  73. James cox

    Do you know if they make a shorter silicone band for the 5? Maybe the 5s is shorter and would work?

  74. Rowan Morgan

    Does anyone know the differences if it’s an “Asia Version” Fenix 5?

  75. Stéphane

    Hello Ray,
    I have the fenix 3HR sapphire and I’m considering upgrading to the 5X, especially for the MAP feature.
    Do you know if the stock Europe topo map will regularily be updated and if so will it be free ?
    Regards
    Stéphane

  76. Oleksii

    Hi! Could you please make photo of 5s and 5 with ruler on it? i have no ability to try it on before buy (simply because there are no offline store in my city) and i have some doubts that 5 will be quite big for me, because my 40mm orient fits perfectly on my wrist.

    Something like this link to goo.gl

  77. Stephen Rahaim

    Just offering a data point for those folks scouring comments in order to decide on the Fenix 5.
    From the comments above, lots of people sweat intensely over the absolute accuracy of these devices.
    It’s important to them, I get that, respect that, but, for normal-Joe sports folks small percentage variances really don’t matter too much. You have to ask yourself: am I going to be bothered by an occasional HR drop or that the GPS distance on a common run route varies by 0.1-0.3 miles on different days? I’m certainly not such a finely tuned machine that that could possibly affect my performance metrics!

    So I’ve had the Fenix2, the Fenix3 and now the Fenix 5. All have performed great, from battery life to GPS tracking to, now, the 24/7 HR data collection. I mostly MTB or trail run in the forested areas of the eastern US. GPS works just fine. I would very much recommend.

    Also, as noted, I had the Fenix 3; it was a large watch but not too bad. These are all day work and play watches for me. I wear a suit to work. So big, won’t fit under a buttoned shirt sleeve, but not too obnoxious. The Fenix 5X was measured as just a smidge bigger and it had maps, which I thought might be useful for trail running or on MTB. So I got one for a couple weeks but returned it. The watch felt, to me, really big compared to the Fenix 3 and the size of the actual screen was, or seemed to be, the same as the Fenix 5. So the bigger case didn’t buy bigger display real estate (or so it seemed). This in turn made my use of the maps marginal. The map data was there – even my local trails were on the data base – but as a practical matter it wasn’t easy to stop in the middle of a ride, scroll around the map and figure out which way to go. Just not worth the trouble and with a small screen, kinda hard to see. (I have a Garmin 1000 that is much more useful for the MTB map reading aspect).

    So, long story short, though the 5X did everything advertised, I returned for a 5 and have been very happy. A bit smaller that the Fenix 3 but looks the same. Works fine for wearing to work, etc… I also looked at the 5S and it looked very nice too; however my style consultant (13-yr old daughter) nixed it as being a bit too feminine. It looked fine to me but what to I know, I’m a Dad, so, apparently, nothing.

    • Stéphane

      Thank you Stephen for this usefull feedback, I admit the bigger F5X size, compared to F3HR may count,
      The map feature is important to me but indeed, having to use the buttons to scroll is painfull and it is obvious a touchscreen would be welcome here.

      Stéphane

    • Stephane L

      Hey,
      Good comments.
      Mapping is very helpful on hiking. So that’s why i got it and it work very good for that. I’m impressed (i’ve been one of those who got the Epix and it work better tahn Epix….). The way they config the button to zoom and pan are awesome. I prefer that then touchscreen. And for mountain biking or running, map is cool for routing. That’s true than i don’t see me stop to look at the map, but to know where to go, with path to follow, it’s awesome.

      I very love my Fenix 5x. It will just get better and better with firmware update.
      Steph

    • James Sloan

      Stephane L,
      Thanks for your comments. I’m debating between the 5 and 5x. I hike a lot in Utah and I think the maps would be useful. I’ve used other apps that have been useful MTB Project and AllTrails, but when cell coverage is not available, I have to make sure the app was open and tracking to where I start on the trailhead, otherwise those apps are useless without coverage. I also travel a lot and while the road direction and POIs wouldn’t be used by me much, I think using the watch to help me find a running route would be a nice add.
      Thoughts?!

    • Eric

      Shameless self promotion, but I have a steel band sapphire Fenix 5 up on KSL. Search for “fenix 5” and you will see it. Never been opened, got from Garmin.com last week. $799 (it’s the $849 version). I’m close to just keeping it, but prefer to sell since I think I’ll keep my Apple Watch.

  78. Charly

    Hi, I would like to know how resistant is the screen.
    I used to have a Vivoactive and the screen broke while swimming. it got hit with an other watch.
    So Im planning on buying a Fenix 3 hr sapphire but the fenix 5 is tempting.
    What would you recommend?

    • Evo

      i had an apple watch (first gen) and in a month the screen was scratched. it later fell out of my swim locker and cracked on the tile and that was the end of that. i’ve had the fenix 5s sapphire for just over a month and i’ve smashed it on everything. it’s rather big for me so i’m not surprised it gets in the way. but the screen has held up, no scratches, nothing. it generally looks brand new.

  79. Tatiana Surazhsky

    Good day, trying before contacting the shop…
    I’ve just bought new 5s and it works fine except for keeping “forgetting” some things… like time format (settings->system->time) and alarm, I add new alarm, I see it for half an hour after I added it, check once again in an hour and there are no alarms set… only “add new” in the menu.

    Shall be happy if anyone has a solution
    Thanks!
    Tatinaa

  80. kasrhp

    Ray,

    Thanks as always for all the work you do. I’m enjoying my Fenix 5, though it’s far from perfect. One area I’d like to see in the future is more testing around strength training workouts. You’ve touched on it in the podcast, but from my experience the optical HR is crazy useless during strength training showing my HR to be 50 Bpm off or even higher (always on the low side, getting crazy low resting style HR readings). This happens in upper body workouts which makes sense, but also lower body workouts which is a little odd. During running and bike trainer work though, it’s pretty spot on.

    Also, I’d love it if you could hammer Garmin on the low quality of their display. I’ve got the GF5 and my wife has an Apple Watch 2. It’s extremely disappointing seeing her display in comparison to mine. Paying 2-3x more than the Apple Watch, thought it isn’t a direct comparison, and getting much lower resolution and a mediocreLCD is really a shame. I would think a move to an OLED display would improve battery life and really improve the experience and that it should be a talking point when comparing these watches, especially as they move from standalone workout devices to 24/7 tools and time pieces.

    Thanks again!

    • Paul S.

      There’s a reason for the display. If the Fenix had the same display as the AW but always on, then the battery would be vastly reduced, and you couldn’t actually see it in direct sunlight where the Fenix is meant to be used. The AW keeps the display off most of the time to preserve battery life, but you probably wouldn’t want that in a Fenix.

    • Evo

      i agree with Paul S. one thing that really annoyed me about the apple watch is that you have to bring it up to your face to see the time. when i’m cycling, i can glance down at the fenix 5S and see the time.

      i think i know what you mean with regards to the graphics and displays. for such a nice watch i do wish it was a little prettier (the font is meh) and used the space of the watch better for display (say i look at my last run or bike activity) and showed me more. to see anything i have to looking at connect.garmin.com and i think it should be do-able on the watch screen for a lot of this. it just feels like there wasn’t as much effort with regards to data display on the watch.

      for example, i like the apple watch weather display better, and i dislike that i can’t scroll on the fenix 5S for later hours on the weather to see what i need to anticipate for my ride later. like at night as i’m getting ready to sleep, i want to know if it’s going to rain or not the next morning but i can’t b/c it only tells me 4 hours ahead. i don’t want to get up and get my phone and find out.

      eh. i haven’t given it a ton of thought, but coming from an apple watch to a fenix 5S does feel like a downgrade in some ways while an upgrade in others. it’s such a good watch that i feel like the visual aspect/experience could probably be improved with not much effort. maybe all they need to do is hire a team of graphic designers to get this right? i think the users would appreciate it, even if they don’t think they need it.

    • Paul S.

      They’re different devices for different purposes. I have a 1st gen Apple Watch and an Epix. It’s very rare that I wear both at the same time. The AW I wear most of the day, and it’s a superb smart watch, but I usually leave it at home during physical activities. The Epix is mainly for cross country skiing and hiking, although I do use it for other purposes occasionally. I don’t take either while cycling, since I have an Edge 1000. From what I’ve read, the AW 2 gen has a brighter screen than the first gen but still doesn’t solve the direct sunlight problem where the Epix is easily visible. They’re not really meant for the same uses, so they’re designed differently.

    • kasrhp

      OLED power consumption varies depending on how many pixels are lit (black background uses no power because no light is emitted at all from OLED black pixels), which makes them great for always-on displays. Also, viewing angles are vastly improved with OLED and the display is vastly slimmer, two great benefits. I’m wondering whether this was tested by Garmin and was either inefficient or costly, with the latter being unfortunate for the price of the watch.

      Comparing the battery life of the AW isn’t like comparing apples to apples as the AW performs much differently and is housed in a much smaller profile than the GF5. The AW does get pretty bright reaching 482 nits, so I can’t see much to complain about there. See: link to displaymate.com

      With that said, I’m not sure if OLED is the way to go and I understand Garmin uses a Transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, which is incredibly energy efficient. There’s always a trade off when choosing real life tech, but the display needs to greatly improve from its current state. I’d like to see higher contrast ratio and more pixels to give it that silkier look and close the gap when compared to the AW. I don’t think it’s unfair to have that comparison.

  81. jessica

    Thank you for sharing. Great review! I just want you to know “4” is an unlucky number for Chinese (just like number 13), because it pronounces pretty close to dead, die, kill in Chinese.

  82. Dirk

    I am still using a Suunto Ambit 3 peak (and several Suunto models before that).
    I mainly use this in combination with a heart rate strap to record indoor and outdoor activities and use the GPS logging mainly for bike rides and long city excursions + geotagging of photographs.

    I find the Fenix 5x features interesting, as it would allow HR monitoring even without a strap, allow estimation of better HR data regarding base metabolism and find especially it’s mapping features very interesting.
    The watch also does look even less like a typical sportswatch (see Suunto) and a bit more like a large diver (I prefer to use mechanical divers watches as my everyday time pieces).

    Few questions:

    1) How does the Fenix 5x mapping and GPS functionality behave in places with GPS map shift (I travel a lot between Europe and China mainland and China does employ a strange GPS map shift where map/GPS data has to be adjusted for to display properly)?
    Is this properly working out of the box and is Garmin flexible and supportive in solving issues?
    A not properly working mapping feature on a Fenix 5x due to China mainland GPS shift would eliminate 50% of my incentive of shelling out ~750 EUR for a watch upgrade.
    As an aside all Suunto products work without issues on my side (using European units in mainland China). I have never had a Garmin product before.

    2) What features/specs does the Garmin Fenix 5x lack, compared to the Ambit 3 peak in regards of:
    – GPS precision/ speed of acquisition (I am happy with the Suunto Ambit 3 peak performance but would not like to step down in performance)
    – battery life (in GPS 1sec mode) – the official specs are not directly comparable and confuse me here

    3) Is the Fenix 5x OHR sensor as capable as the Suunto Ambit 3 + HR strap (especially cycling + indoor workouts – free weights, gymnastics, )?

    4) Does the Garmin data export nicely to external data managers (I am using RubiTrack on Mac and iOS for many years now and it works pretty solid with Suunto data)?

    5) Is the constant heart rate monitoring data of the watch exportable / usable outside of the watches own algorithms or is this data only used Garmin watch/ software internal and cannot be used outside of Garmin?

    6) Is there any useful Apple iOS Health app integration for important data points from the Garmin side with automatic data acquisition and sharing (I am happy how my current ecosystem is working smoothly now with all important data being acquired and shared by the apps I use and would hate to break this by switching to a Garmin watch)?

    I am usually upgrading every 2 years to a newest model and the Ambit 3 peak is just working fine still but the new, interesting features of the Fenix 5x look VERY interesting (especially OHR + mapping).
    I also especially like the standard strap lug attachment, so custom straps can be used (I hate rubber and usually like Nylon straps on my watches).

    • Rudy

      What does the average person do with old watches?
      I just purchased the garmin fenix 5S two weeks ago, and now i want to get rid of my fitbit surge, suunto ambit, and garmin forerunner because i finally have a watch that does what i want without a chest strap.

    • Dirk

      Hey Rudy, I can’t help with your old watches but could you please leave some thoughts regarding Suunto Ambit vs Garmin Fenix 5x?

    • Most people simply sell them. Usually first to local running/bike/tri team-mates, and then beyond that on Craigslist or eBay.

    • Markus G

      I’m not Rudy but I did run about 2 weeks with a Fenix 5 and Ambit2 (left and right wrist; not same side). Well the Fenix 5 did by far not reach the Ambit2’s GPS accuracy (hilly region with curved and tree-covered trails). It was off by 3-5%.
      I repeated the same with the Fenix 5 vs. Garmin 630. Same result. Now I own a 935…

      In open-sky regions (I was at north-shore of Germany for two weeks) it was ok, so you probably must consider your local situation here.

      And my Fenix 5 is on eBay right now. Just to answer the other question: “what to people do with old watches” 🙂

    • Dirk

      thanks for the insight Marcus.
      That doesn’t sound so good 🙁

      Did you see any other shortcomings of the Fenix 5x vs the Ambit2 when you compared them?
      Any input on comparing heart rate tracking between the Fenix OHR sensor and the Ambit with strap?

      I wish there was more comparing the Suunto Ambit line of watches with the Fenix 5 line in Ray’s review as the Ambit1/2/3 still is actively used by many and it continues to be a very capable piece of gear.

      I still use my Ambit3P very often and my interest was only peaked as the Fenix looks so much less like a plastic sportswatch than the Ambit and has a few interesting features the Ambit3P does not.

      The decision if those few features are worth the very high price for the Fenix is not easily taken if the Fenix performs worse in GPS tracking 🙁

  83. cathy y

    Have your or could you do a comparison between Fenix 5S/5/5X with the 935XT?
    Thanks!

  84. Peter Davies

    Is it possible to do round-trip routing on an activity other than running or cycling e.g. walk or hike?

  85. Lawrence

    Does anyone know if you can disable/turn off wifi? I need it to be off vs. not configured.

  86. Eddie

    There are some “International Version” Fenix 5 units floating around on the Internet. Can anybody tell me what the difference is between that and the U.S. Version?

  87. James Sloan

    I love your reviews. I have a question about the 5X. Clearly, that’s the difference between the 5x and the 5. I tend to spend a lot of time hiking. Many of my hikes there isn’t cell phone coverage. However, using apps like AllTrails and MTBProject have worked fairly well for me. Although, I’ve had the app open before I lose cell coverage and I have to have the specific area or trail already pulled up. If not, I’m screwed and it’s back to paper or map on my phone. Rarely, but sometimes I’ve gotten lost and have always been able to get back to where I needed to be. I’m thinking the maps feature of the 5X would be great, but it sounds like it’s dependent on whether the map actually has the trail I’m using on it. Can I pre-program trails on the maps, if they are not already there? I’m really struggling between the 5 and the 5x. I have a smaller wrist, but if the maps would really be useful, I’d love it. I can’t see ever finding much use with the routing features within a urban or suburban area. We have phones for that. I do like the find my route feature since I travel a lot and it might make it easier to find running routes. What do you use to find running routes in new areas you might travel?
    Thank you for your time and your reviews. They are spectacular.

  88. Grant

    Thanks for the in depth review – it convinced me to take the plunge (despite the crazy price).

    I had mine a week and it was working well, using the HRM to make sure I was in the right zone when running.

    Then on Saturday Garmin pushed out 4.10 (without asking first : I had heard that the updated caused some problems with the HRM accuracy so I wasn’t going to update until these were sorted) and wouldn’t you know it : the HRM is now almost completely useless when running : whether I’m doing intervals or a 5k it seems to think I’m barely doing a fast walk when I’m actually well into the anaerobic zone and think’s I’m aerobic when I’m actually at my max HR…then all of a sudden the detected heart rate leaps up. It’s all over the place!

    Does anyone know what on earth is going on? There’s posts on the forum about similiar issues but it seems Garmin isn’t interested 🙁 I’m going to need to get a refund if I can’t fix this as it’s the main reason I bought it, but I’m torn because it really is such a nice watch in all other ways. My other half’s Foreunner 35 seems to be working perfectly well (I tried the two with one on each arm) and reflects the correct rate 🙁

  89. Gregory

    Does anyone know if swim activities add to your Training Load number and if they affect training status? Also, I wear a HRM – Swim during my swim activities but that portion of the day (an hour or so) is blank on my All Day Heart Rate chart. Is that normal? I do, however, see heart rate data for the actual activity when I review it.

    Thanks!

    • Tang

      Same here. Nor did it count on intensity minutes, I think. Is there anyway we can make it count with other activities?

  90. Alan Lipchin

    Hi, i have been on your site all day, and would like to ask with the Fenix range the 3 and 5. Would the WBH work under water and manage my heart rate or would i need a strap.

    Another question the Forerunner 935 would that also work underwater to monitor my HR via the optical monitor.

    many thanks
    Alan

  91. Chris Nelmes

    Does anyone know if the Fenix 5x will link to a Concept 2 rowers PM5 monitor in order to show heart rate or do I have to wear a hrm strap?

  92. Zach

    I got a Garmin Fenix 5 (non-sapphire) about 2 months ago. I’ve started to notice some sections of the screen coating are coming off, almost like some sort of very thin layer on the watch face that’s failing. It’s only noticeable if you see it in direct bright light at the correct angle.

    Has anyone else noticed this? It’s almost looks like a scratch, but the patterns are circular, leading me to believe pieces of the coating are coming off.

  93. Lothar Wieland

    with my fenix 5x the garmin connect acoustic navigation alarms are not transmitted to iphone. The navigation alarm switch is enabled but not sound to hear when it comes to change of navigation directions. Any ideas to get this resolved?

  94. Marc

    Hello great review as usual just have a question I was not reading all 1299 posted
    I got mine last week and I am wondering how to get Brazilian maps and how to download them

  95. Raed I Al Raimouny

    How do use my fenix 5x for weight training at the gym?

  96. Charles Nicholas

    While bike touring in Provence, I went down at 60kph and badly scratched the bezel on my 5x. Interestingly, the glass did not scratch or chip. Possible to replace the bezel?

  97. Charles Nicholas

    I got the following very quick and very nice response from Garmin USA.

    I apologize, the front bezel and lens of the fenix 5 models are attached to each other and is not a replaceable part available for purchase. As this piece has electronic structures hard wired into it, this is not a part of the watch that a customer should replace.

    Also, taking apart the watch in this fashion would void any further warranty it may have.

    If you need to have the bezel and/or lens replaced, the watch would need to be sent in to our repair department. Physical damage such as scratches, nicks, cracks and dents are not covered by Garmin’s warranty policy.

    However the device can still be sent in to our repair department. For this, there will be a flat rate of repair of $130.00, subject to tax.

  98. jack cohen

    big help
    thanks
    have the5X
    love it

  99. David

    Ray, since the Fenix 5 has been out several months now just wondering if your contacts at Garmin have any updates on the following issues by chance?

    1. Is there any timeline for Vivosmart 3 stress / weight training features to be added to the Fenix 5 lineup?
    2. Any further updates on the issues specific to the 5/5S (not 5X) that are causing several popular ANT+ devices like the Stryd and Stages to continue to suffer from signal dropouts? Have we reached the point where the answer will be “3rd party devices need more powerful signals” vs. something Garmin thinks they can do in firmware/software on their end?

    I love my Sapphire 5S from Clever but I’m still disappointed that I can’t use it for my Stages Power Meter (absolutely no ANT+ signal, Bluetooth works but I can’t calibrate and it seems smoothed differently from ANT+ so I use my 820, but that negates some of the FirstBeat analysis that my watch could do blended with my running) and that it doesn’t work with Stryd Gen 2 properly (5/5S have been removed as compatible devices by Stryd.)

    Thanks!

    • Raed I Al Raimouny

      I contacted garmin support and as I understood from them that they have no plans to add stress and weight training features

    • David

      Raed: Ray specifically stated that at least in regards to the stress features they absolutely plan to add them to the Fenix 5 series. Garmin Support never has real information about coming changes to firmware to offer customers sadly, its the beta/marketing teams that do and we all know a guy who talks to them pretty frequently… 😉

    • Peter@Flanders

      I’m also interested in the Vivosmart 3 stress / weight training features and hope Garmin will implement it soon.

    • Chris

      at the Garmin Connect Conference – I was told by one of the lead developers the stress features would be added “very soon” – now what that means as far as timeframe, I have no idea. I do see with 4.12 that they have finally added a treadmill calibration function – YEAH!

  100. Lothar Wieland

    Stages Powermeter issue with fenix 5x. I switched from other Garmin devices to fenix 5x. In the other divices (820, 520 and even 935) i had the possibility to configure Power Watts over time intervall f.e. 3 sec or 10 sec. In the fenix 5x it is not possible. These data choices are not being offered, you can just click on ‘Power’ nothing more. The power measurement seems to work like the 3sec. Any ideas where the other power choices in fenix 5x are gone?

  101. Carlos

    Thanks for the great review.

    Do you have any recommendations in how to get cycling data in this watch after logging rides with garmin edge 520? I tipically dont wear the watch since i already have a good bike computer, but i would have thought that the activity would sinc back to the watch via garmin connect. Thanks!

    • Ryan

      Hi Carlos,
      Why would you want the ride on your watch? The 520 would record a file for the activity, this file would be synced with Garmin Connect. If are wanting the watch to use an activity recorded on another device to calculate Vo2 etc, it will not (to the best of my knowledge). If you want your watch to have all your data, just record the activity on your watch at the same time as on your 520. I do that, helps check accuracy and if I ever have an issue with one of the devices, I can use the other device’s file to sync to Garmin connect.

  102. Mark Hunt

    Nice review DC Rainmaker..

    I’m in the market for a fitness tracker. My main sport activity is Ice Hockey. So you have any recommendations.

    Cheers,
    Mark.

  103. ivan

    Hi DC
    I have moved through the ranks from the 301 to 310 to 910XT. I have a 5x on order, and getting cold feet. I have read a couple of reviews on the accuracy various devices. I was surprised to see the 5x is far under performs against both of these devises wrt accuracy and precision. link: link to fellrnr.com. Also click on link to fellrnr.com. During the review the 5x used was supporting GPS firmware 4.30 In the Fenix 5x review from the link it makes mention that on a 20mile run the unit could be out by as much as 1 mile. Ouch. I realise the Spartan was also way off the mark initially. Suunto have certainly improved the accuracy and precision to acceptable levels. Concerning for me, and this brings me to the big question, do you think Garmin are likely to update the firmware 4.30 in the near future.
    Regards

    • I wouldn’t put too much credence on fellrnr’s “reviews” as his methodology is questionable. Indeed his first reviews were done without GLONASS and Ultratrac mode, hard to take him seriously after that. I run woody trails and so far have never been out more than 0.2km from the iPhone or Fenix 3 my dog wears on a 10k. Don’t worry it is a great watch and the maps are superb.

    • Zoltan

      Mine was 310XT, 910XT and Fenix 3HR, but still wear 910XT, too, when hiking/running with F3HR. Just to replace the GPS thrack of Fenix with that of 910XT in slow motion activities. when running is running and jogging, F3HR is OK. When I jog the wobbling of GPS of F3HR means a distortion of appr 5%. When I hike under trees or in a canyon-like place it can be as much as 10-20%, while 910XT remains under an error of 5%.

      Handheld Garmin GPSs had (maybe still have) a feature to set a minimum distance between trackpoints in order to define which trackpoints should be saved in fact. I set it to 3 or 4 meters. It would help Fenix line to have this feature, because it would decrease the extent of wobbling.

  104. Chris Clancy

    Is anybody else seeing really screwy HR values all the sudden? Mine was working perfectly until a few weeks ago and now (like the attached image) – is completely hosed. This was 800 repeats and my heart rate should have shown 175ish instead of 145. Garmin said they have no reports and is just going to replace the watch if the beta firmware doesn’t resolve it – it seems to have started around the 4.10 firmware update.

  105. Nemo

    Feeling Frustrated!!! I have been using the 5S for a month now and have found the GPS accuracy is sub par. Specifically, it records roughly 1 tenth of a mile extra on every mile, and that adds up rather quickly. My rides/runs are all at the beach (flat, strait, no trees, and no buildings higher than 4 stories). So getting a good GPS signal isn’t (or shouldn’t) be the issue. I have a 920XT as well which I have been using on the bike simultaneously and that’s how I noticed the issue. My bike route happens to have mile markers on the road, so on my last ride I hit the split button on each watch to record the difference. You can see the results in the Connect files available at the below links (FYI- I’m using GPS Only on both watches). Searching the forums, it looks to me like I’m not alone with this problem. Ray- have you heard anything from Garmin on this issue? Any chance its a SW thing that they will be able to fix?
    link to connect.garmin.com
    link to connect.garmin.com

    • Stealth

      You should be lucky with this accuracy! 🙂
      No, don’t think a FW-update can fix this. Im a senior IT’er and I think we should start a clmass-action. This is really not ‘the Greatest sportwatch’ ever. It’s a fail. If GPS-chipset is not ok … it’s by (hardware) design.

      Even the cheapest Polar with the -in comparison- superb SiRFstar GPS chipset is more ‘track-on’ (even just the H10 with iPhone). It is ‘for ‘99%’ spot on!! Mediatech GPS in ‘The World’s Greatest Ever’ is … fun. NOT. It’s a WORLD SHAME. Walking over the buildings, criss-cross, other side of the street … and so on, and so on. Garmin FIX IT … or I want my money back. Sick of this ‘Athletic – even ‘Olympic’ class-watch … *would be … would be!!) And in the same time: fix that fucking Connect-app. Polar, with a lott less money … can have it right …. the F5 is just better in esthetics. But that have nothing to do with this deal as a 24/7 high-end sportwatch!! Besides huge differences and 24/7 HR tracking ON … my BMR (Rest metabolism) is every day … the fucking same. Come on guys – from development/T&D to marketing , do you believe yourself???????

    • Sorry for the delay. I’ve had crappier than crappy internet the last week, and so have only found good internet for big uploads and was having problems getting your two GC links to fully open on my crappy interwebs.

      In any case – looking at them as best I can within GC, I can’t figure out where you lost the mile or so. Can you shoot me* the two .FIT files (label them so I know which is which). I wanna toss it into the Analyzer and see if I can understand where things went wrong.

      Any just to be 100% sure – what type/model/brand of speed/cadence sensor are you using exactly?

      *Just ray at the domain

    • Nemo

      Absolutely, happy to send you the files. I’ll include all those details in the email.

    • Nemo

      I just wanted to update this thread/comment to help others troubleshoot this problem.

      I’ve done a significant amount of riding with various different settings and on various different bikes (Thanks to Ray for some guidance here!). Loooong story short, the Fenix 5s was paired with a PowerTap Wheel. It appears that the Fenix 5s takes the speed/distance from this device rather than using the GPS. When I first paired the PowerTap it did not ask me for wheel circumference (or if it did, I don’t recall and must have selected “auto”). The PowerTap is on a 650c wheel. It seems the Fenix 5S thought it was a 700. That is what was causing the problem and why it wasn’t seen on any of my runs. I removed the PT sensor from the Fenix, then re-added it and was prompted to enter the wheel size. Problem solved, it records distance/speed perfectly now.

    • Zoltan

      Re Stealth:

      Just get a 910XT for a 100 or so, or maybe a 920XT (no personal experience) and you will have an acceptable level of GPS accuracy.
      If you need additional features keep it your Fenix, either 3 or 5, if you dont just sell it to finance your other watches.

  106. Steve

    Hi,
    Looking to buy the Fenix 5 after owning a Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire.
    What I really can’t decide is whether to stump up for the F5 Sapphire or just buy the standard model.
    I understand the value of having a Sapphire crystal face, but there are lots out there that say they wear their watch everyday and use it hard and have receiving no scratches.
    One of the biggest gripes if that the Sapphire edition is only available in all black in the UK, when I prefer the stainless steel bezel. Are a wider choice of finishes going to be available later?
    How crucial do you feel WiFi is when using the F5?

    Many thanks DC.
    Steve

    • James Sloan

      I had the Fenix 3, without Sapphire. Never had any issues with scratches on the face. I wouldn’t consider that alone as a reason to pay more. I’ve ordered the Fenix 5x for the maps, but by default comes with Sapphire. I hope the maps are worth it.

    • Nemo

      My 2 cents. I bought the Sapphire because my 920XT always seemed to have more trouble updating over bluetooth but did fine once I got within reach of my home wifi. I’ve had the 5S for 4 weeks and have found the bluetooth updates just fine and I’m hardly even using the wifi. Perhaps the scratch proof glass will come in handy since I’m wearing it pretty much 24×7, but it will take a long time for me to reach that answer. So- frankly- I’d say save your $$.

    • jack cohen

      I have the 5X Sapphire. so far no issues. I confess, I am not trying to land a man on the moon either. I did add the chest strap heart monitor and that seems to give me better/more reliable results.

  107. Christian

    Has anyone gained some experience concerning the accuracy of GPS and altitude in a more challenging Terrain (steeper trails, mountains with higher altitude, etc.)?

    I’d especially be interested in a Review of how good the Fenix 5 works for mountaineering? Any recommendations where to find a proper Review about that? Or even better, can anyone share some own experiences?

  108. osramini

    good evening everyone,
    Small question for those who use the 5X for a while, can it be used daily in harsh conditions? I use a Casio Mudmaster and a Vivo active Hr watch, and I would like to replace them with a 5X, is the strength of the 5x correct?
    I have always had only Casio because of my work outside and I would not resell my Casio too fast,
    Thank you for your feedback.

  109. Conor McCarthy

    Bought the Fenix 5 for use in Lavaredo Ultra this weekend. The Ultrac mode is rubbish – by the time we reached 40km, watch was telling us 50km. Very disappointing to find it so inaccurate.

    • Stealth

      Extremely disappinting. ‘The Ultra Sportwatch’.
      Walking stairs? 3-4 times? Not one tree. No registration at all. A few hours later … 1 stair. While walking on street.

      Toothbrushing? Counting the ‘steps’ as hell.

      GPS? Sucks as that same hell.

      Garmin. YOU FAILED WITH F5. Really, shame on your commercial you. Looking forward to the V800-successor and that’s it. Besides a class action … that’s for sure. If Garmin marketing/engineering/R&D thinks this is the market for F5 … wait and see. Bad group, bad taget Garmin. Athletes can be véry stubborn … until the END, the *very End*. Remind that. Losers!!! But oh, the F6 is in the pipeline, isn’t it? Well again, wait and see ‘BIG’ Garmin. Bean comes for his wages … mind Mediatec for the loosy GPS-module, remember: YOU, and only YOU Garmin are responsible for end-sales. ‘Best sportwatch ever??? Our Ass!!!

    • Zoltan

      As a sidenote, I switched the arm on which I wear my Fenix just to avoid the toothbrush phenomenon.

  110. Justin

    I was wondering if you could explain the differences between the sapphire edition and the regular, mainly looking at what including the wifi in the sapphire edition adds. I am trying to decide if the inclusion of wifi is worth the extra 100 bucks.

    • Nemo

      Scan up just a few comments and you’ll see my response to this Q. The only difference is the wifi and the glass

    • Justin

      I know the difference was wifi and glass. My question was I wanted to know what features the wifi actually gave you because no website actually says what benefits thew wifi adds to the watch.

    • The only thing the wifi is used for is syncing activities. Great if you end all your activities inside your wifi network range and don’t have a bluetooth enabled phone otherwise it’s nearly as quick to sync via bluetooth to the phone.

    • Nemo

      I’ll retype what I posted above , sorry if I wasn’t clear
      My 2 cents. I bought the Sapphire because my 920XT always seemed to have more trouble updating over bluetooth but did fine once I got within reach of my home wifi. I’ve had the 5S for 4 weeks and have found the bluetooth updates just fine and I’m hardly even using the wifi. Perhaps the scratch proof glass will come in handy since I’m wearing it pretty much 24×7, but it will take a long time for me to reach that answer. So- frankly- I’d say save your $$.

  111. Kristian Joergensen

    Hey there DCR, i have purchased the Fenix5 and testing it now. So far so good, i am only using for trail/mountain running, and are only using avg. pace/speed, Distance, and elevation/loss gain. Compared to my Ambit3 Peak, the Fenix is just around 200 meters short on 10 to 30 km’s runs, so that’s ok.

    My big question, which i am really struggling with, is when i go to heatmaps on movescount to export a route in GPX, i can’t upload it to the Fenix (Garmin Connect). I simply just get an error message, which says “error, try again. Have you any hints, how i can export the routes from Heatmap and then upload it to the Fenix?.

    Answer is much appreciated.

    Thanks Kristian

  112. Thomas

    Hi! I am new to Garmin and I was just wondering if it is possible to set alerts on pace on the Garmin Fenix 5? And is the alerts in the form of sound or vibration? Thanks on advance!

  113. Michael S

    Sir

    If you have any influence or contacts at Garmin can you flag the broken nature of the APAC software release and support process for the F5X APAC . APAC just got the 3.41 release yesterday 29th June 20 days after the rest of the world and 8 days after a significant treadmill bug got a workaround in the 3.412 beta release. We are told that the 3.41 APAC release is not the same as the 3.41 global release but it appears to have all the same defects. We dont have access to beta releases. We dont have a forum. To log a problem we have to contact APAC Marketing. Who at least based on the support cases ive had to date just send the problem to the US who apparently dont work on APAC problems.

    It has all the hallmarks of an internal power struggle over who gets dollars and who provides support and meanwhile customers are either bemused or frustrated. The fact that i can recognise the problem should be of concern to Garmin management. I’m making an effort to find a solution because i’m invested and have data in the Garmin infrastructure, most customers will just walk away.

  114. hk3_

    Ray: What do you consider an acceptable margin of error for a GPS watch, when running?

    I’m in a fairly urban area, with lots of shorter buildings. But, the following has also happened when I’m at a park in a nearby residential area.

    When I go for a run, my F5X gps tracking will bounce me around to the other side of the street on a regular basis or have me running on top of buildings. I’d say most of the errors are +/- 15 feet from where I am, with a few +/- 50 feet, using 1 second recording, standard GPS mode. I’ve also tried with Glonass on, and it’s about the same.

    Is this normal for a GPS watch? — Thanks

  115. RODOLFO ACOSTA

    Will the “training status” and vo2max get updates from other devices like another Garmin wearable or edge 820/520 for cycling ? Or does all input have to be recorded through the Fenix?

  116. elias

    can you provide information on the features that can be used with golf

    • Nemo

      The Fenix 5 has an “Activity” you can set up to track your golf game. I don’t play golf, but when I looked at the manual and read all the set up stuff it seemed to me to be a lot of work just to count strokes- but I might be missing the benefit since it’s not my game. Essentially, you download the course from Garmin Connect and then play the course. I’d suggest reviewing the manual to give you a better idea of what the Activity does and if it’s worth it to you. You can find the info here: link to www8.garmin.com

    • I actually finally tried the golf functions a few weeks ago (I haven’t golfed in 5 years). Since it was my first time using the functions, I screwed up a bunch with it.

      But, the general gist on the Fenix 5 is it’ll tell you the position/distance to the front of the green, the hole, and the back of the green. It’ll also track your shots and distance for your shots…if you remember to press the right buttons. Further, the app can also track your friends shots in the scorecard piece, but I didn’t quite figure that out.

      I think if you played every week (or more), it’d become second nature. Just like some things we do for other sports is second nature but seems odd to newbies. In this instance, I was a newbie. But I will say knowing exactly how far to the green each time was something that others in my group were envious of.

  117. mark Webster

    I have just finished reading your review which is great, however I am new to this game and found a lot of it over my head. I am however in the market for finding a sport style watch and as I get older and my eyes fade the fenix 5x appeals. I would be using it for hiking and water skiing. My long winded question is. I generally go hiking of the beaten track in the bush or follow trails that you might not find on a map. Will the GPS and mapping system be of use to me and help me find my way back??. Do you think the 5x is the watch for me??
    Thanking you in advance for your time
    Mark Webster

    • Peter Davies

      In my opinion the 5X would be perfect for that.

    • Tim Chapman

      If I want to change sports mid activity without having set up a multisport option before I started, can you do it? With the 920XT you couldd but I cant find it on the Fenix 5?

  118. osramini

    good evening everyone,
    About the cards that can be added to this watch,
    Can a user try to add different types of cards? Osm cards or other?
    Thank you for your feedback.

  119. mark Webster

    With ref to my last comment and a comment from James sloan ref 1293. He puts my question much better Thani can. I was trying to find an answer to his question but couldn’t find one.
    I will put his question below but if you could answer his question that would fix us both up
    Thanks

    James Sloan
    June 10, 2017 at 11:56 pm #1293
    I love your reviews. I have a question about the 5X. Clearly, that’s the difference between the 5x and the 5. I tend to spend a lot of time hiking. Many of my hikes there isn’t cell phone coverage. However, using apps like AllTrails and MTBProject have worked fairly well for me. Although, I’ve had the app open before I lose cell coverage and I have to have the specific area or trail already pulled up. If not, I’m screwed and it’s back to paper or map on my phone. Rarely, but sometimes I’ve gotten lost and have always been able to get back to where I needed to be. I’m thinking the maps feature of the 5X would be great, but it sounds like it’s dependent on whether the map actually has the trail I’m using on it. Can I pre-program trails on the maps, if they are not already there? I’m really struggling between the 5 and the 5x. I have a smaller wrist, but if the maps would really be useful, I’d love it. I can’t see ever finding much use with the routing features within a urban or suburban area. We have phones for that. I do like the find my route feature since I travel a lot and it might make it easier to find running routes. What do you use to find running routes in new areas you might travel?
    Thank you for your time and your reviews. They are spectacular.

  120. Nicole Ramsbey

    Do you know if the sapphire now does the auto TP synchronization of workout uploads now?

  121. Dave Murray

    Hi DC. Can’t think of anyone else to ask. Does the Training Status and Training Load data on the watch take into account only activities recorded through the watch, or will it also include other activities recorded and synced to Garmin Connect such as cycling activities recorded on a Garmin Edge device instead?

    For example, I use my Garmin Edge 810 to record ride activites. To get accurate Training Load and Training Status data on the Fenix 5, would I also have to record the ride data on the watch?

    Much appreciated if you could help.

    A fan 😉

  122. Thomas

    Hi! I just bought the Fenix 5 and I was wondering if there is any way of customizing the data fields within Garmin connect instead of in the watch itself?

  123. One thing I would say about the Fenix 5X is despite being a brilliant watch Garmin Support sucks so badly it’s hard to not conclude they are actively discouraging people from ever buying Garmin again. I have the cable not mounting issue which seems quite popular on the support forums and the answer seems to be a replacement cable. So when it got unbearable I contacted support and within a few hours they had sent an email saying if I sent my address they’d send out a new cable…. result. Four days later no reply and no cable so I email them again and they now give me a list of things to try like plugging in and then turning the watch off. I informed them I had tried all these having read the support forum posts. You can imagine my surprise when the next email asked for the device number (which was in the first email) the problem (again in the first email) screenshots !!! what happens before the problem !!! and other stupid questions. I reply back saying it’s all in the support email trail only for them to reply that they need the information again………frustrating to say the least. So over a week later I cannot update the watch (albeit only maps) and seem to be back at the start trying to explain what should be a simple problem to people who seem unable to even read.

    • Out of curiosity, which region support are you working with?

      Generally speaking I hear good things about US support (e-mail, but especially phone – like, really good on phone). And mixed across other regions.

      As a general rule of thumb I always try and use the phone to resolve support issues (with any company), over e-mail. For one, it costs them more – so if it’s a persistent issue it’s likely to be resolved behind the scenes more likely in most companies than an e-mail, which aren’t always tracked as well. And two, I can minimize churn back and forth in what could be a two-second validation thing.

      Just my two cents…

    • Thanks Ray I’m in the UK so UK support, if nothing gets resolved this week I’ll go the phone route but I’m still shocked that support staff cannot scroll down an email especially when supporting a £650 watch.

    • Alex Masidlover

      I’ve had the same experience with Garmin UK email support with my 310XT. Suunto may not be perfect but at least their support dept read the emails… On the other hand I’ve had a better experience recently with Garmin support when using their live chat.

      I work in an office with other people during the day and have small children climbing over me most of the rest of normal support hours so for me its not really feasible to make long phone calls to try and describe detailed problems.

    • It does seem stupid…

      Cost of new cable to Garmin £2 to £5, now I’ll have to call in on an 0808 number which they pay for and tie up a, albeit minimum wage, employee for 20 minutes who needs a building and associated costs which I’m sure will mount up to more that £5.

      I’d also normally buy the next Fenix 6, not because I have a need but because I can. So I’ll now probably skip the next one so the £500+ profit they would have made they’ve now lost. If I wanted poor support I’d buy something cheap.

      Thanks Alex for the tip about web chat – going to try that first I think, I like a record of what’s been said.

  124. OSRAMINI

    Good news, Garmin is releasing a new Foretrex watch and it will be Galileo compatible, there may be updates from current devices to Galileo, where it will be necessary to wait for the next generations of watches / devices, accuracy should be excellent with reception Of this 3rd network of satellites.

  125. JuliusCes

    Hi

    How can I use the Middle east maps on the Gamin fenix 5x. I’m looking for something similar to google maps.

    Thanks!

  126. Kristian Joergensen

    Hello DC

    I purchased the watch after reading your review, and I have to say I am disappointed about the GPS accuracy. I’m always in 1 second recording with or without gelonas on. I run on trails in the Philippines, and the areas are quite dense with threes and bushes. I have compared the tracks with my Spartan and ambit3 Peak, and both performs much better. The Garmin cut corners and, jumps, and goes way of the trails, and a are always short on distance compared to the other 2 watches.

    My question, do you know or think there be a firmware release that will improve the F5 accuracy, like what happened to the Spartan over the year??? Or should we believe in people on the forums, who says it’s the hardware (mediatek chipset), and that won’t be possible to improve?

    I know there are a lot of comments and questions, but i really hope for a reply as i am in a situation where i don’t know if I should sell or keep the watch,.

    All the best

    Kristian

    • I wouldn’t expect any firmware changes at this point in terms of improving GPS accuracy. For most people it seems to work pretty well across a wide variety of conditions.

      I’d also point out that anytime someone says it’s chipset related, they show they have little understanding of GPS technology. The vast (overwhelmingly vast) majority of GPS watch design issues are related more to antenna placement and potentially power consumption.

    • Juri

      So you think there is no chance anymore for them to add GALILEO functionality to the watch?

      That could improve GPS signal by quite a bit, specially in urban environments.

      During CES you seemed hopeful that they might.

    • I believe at CES they said if they thought it was technically possible they’d add it in (meaning, if the hardware supported it). I haven’t heard any mention since unfortunately.

  127. Peter Davies

    Ray (and everyone else)

    I got my new Fenix 5X a few days ago, an upgrade from my Fenix 3 Sapphire (not the HR version). I have not yet had a chance to get out and about to fully test the GPS accuracy yet (hopefully will today). I haven’t found any major unexpected issues with GPS yet but time will tell. However, the first issue I found was that the watch did not remember some settings and the alarms I set. I posted on the Garmin forums and from the responses and me experimenting I discovered that it is caused when it syncs with Garmin Connect and the Garmin connect settings override what is set on the phone. Amongst users this seems to be a known issue. I emailed Garmin and got a response which included the following.

    “Regarding the Garmin connect settings, anything implemented in Garmin Connect will override any settings changed on the watch. I’m afraid it doesn’t work both ways.”

    This can’t be right can it! Why would the option to add alarms and change settings be on the watch in the first place if it was going to be overwritten immediately by Garmin Connect?

    Can you raise this with Garmin at all? What is everyone’s thoughts on this and is everyone else experiencing this problem?

    • Peter Davies

      I went out yesterday to test the GPS. I did a course I do a lot and know the stats from the Fenix 3. The 5X seemed to perform well and gave the same distance and GPS course that the Fenix 3 does. For a commercial grade GPS it seems OK to me and I don’t have any major complaints. Maybe I am just lucky or maybe one test is not enough. This just leaves me with this unacceptable and annoying Garmin Connect sync issue on the settings and alarms!!! Does no one else have any thoughts on this or is no one else experiencing this issue?

    • Peter Davies

      Am I the only one with Garmin Connect syncing issues?

    • roomie

      Same bug here (F5X) ! It sucks about same way.

      I wear this damn expensive watch.
      It is on my hand whole day, not the smartphone.
      When I want to add alarm on my watch for something that is important to me I do that ON THE WATCH and want to be sure IT STAYS THERE UNTIL I REMOVE IT !

      DO YOU LISTEN GAAAAARMIIIIIIIIN ? DO YOU LISTEN M%$%*!)$=RS?

      Bummer.

    • Peter Davies

      Some of the issues should be fixed now. The settings for units, Key Tones, Key Vibration, Alert Tones and Alert Vibration should be OK now but I haven’t checked them all, in fact I have only tried the units for temperature, which was OK. The alarms issue hasn’t been solved yet, annoyingly, however I have received an email from Garmin Support stating that they are aware of the issues and are working on it. Let’s hope they get that fixed because I am as frustrated about it as you are!!!

    • roomie

      Upon “now” you meant after applying beta firmware 5.08 ? I updated the watch with 5.08 and can also confirm that alarm clock issue is not resolved yet 🙁

      Nevertheless, it is good to hear that Garmin now admits it is a bug and not a feature!

      Cheerz

    • Peter Davies

      As far as I am aware it is not to do with the software on the watch. It is all to do with Garmin Connect which they recently upgraded. On the alarms Garmin’s quote was “In regards to the alarm, this is something that we are aware off and are working on a solution.”

    • roomie

      OK, thanks for clarification.

    • Peter Davies

      It looks like the alarms issue may have been fixed. Can anyone who was also suffering from this issue give it a try and let me know whether they believe it is OK or otherwise?

    • Peter Davies

      So it would seem that the alarms issue hasn’t been fixed 🙁

  128. Drew

    For navigation it sucks! Ok the thing has maps but so what? The whole pathway from route creation, heatmaps, importing, exporting, selection and synchronisation is incomplete / broken on Garmin. Autozoom doesn’t work as it should and the route can disappear off the screen completely if you go off track. There has been no attempt to catch up with Suunto in this regard and the Ambit 3 remains a superior navigational device. I am amazed that they have given a superficial facelift to Garmin Connect but have not improved the route creation element which still sports a tiny map and does not support waypoints. Using Chrome’s inspect allows one to see the numerous javascript errors evidencing appalling quality control for the web site. This is not a serious tool for navigation in the great outdoors. I am sure it is a good multisport watch but not sure why one would select this over the FR935. If you want an outdoor navigation watch choose the Ambit 3. If you want a tri watch the FR935. If you want a smart watch with some sports capabilities choose the Polar M600 (if you have an android phone) and you can have google maps on your wrist. I am not convinced DC has used the navigational aspects of a sports watch in anger for example running a new trail in wilderness.

    • tfk

      2c

      I got ‘lost’ testing it in my local park when running hence didn’t venture into my local wilderness either 😉 . too laggy for running-nav. fine for hiking-nav.

    • I’m pretty sure I talked about how hideous the entire process is for creation of routes and getting them to the watch. I despise it. In fact, I’ve railed on Garmin for years about it. Continues to be the most annoying thing on their platform.

      Read the last paragraph of my navigation section to see my summary on this very point (link to dcrainmaker.com)

      “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?”

    • I think it is just a matter of emphasis but I accept that this is difficult when there is so much to cover. In a way that underlines Garmin’s lack of clear focus. Thy have introduced some smart-watch like features without sorting out the basics of navigation on the web-app, smart-phone app and device. You can find a latte in town but not a small track when out running.

      P.S. if you are frustrated with Garmin Connects tiny map for course creation then, once you have logged in, you can use this link: link to connect.garmin.com to get a little more mapping real estate. I have also written a Chrome plugin “Bigger Garmin Course Creator” which further optimises the map.

    • Chris

      The new beta claims to fix the navigation issues with round-trip – because the current round trip functions SUCK BAD on the 5x.. With that said – I’m waiting on a replacment watch as the optical HR went out on my last 5x after a couple of months so I can’t test the new round trip UI yet.

    • roomie

      On the other hand, my experience was much better.

      I used the watch (F5X) today for navigation in dense woods during 10km hike with various ascents/descents and turnovers, and I didn’t prepared the route at all. I just had two known POI’s (i.e. shelters for which I knew appriximate location) and let the watch route me to first POI using trails on default preinstalled EU topo map, and after reaching first POI I just started new navigation target (i.e. second shelter). Way back from second shelter and out of woods was already known to me.

      I must say that this watch and its ecoysystem has many quirks (GC instability, firmware instability – altough I use betas, some other cons discussed on forums etc.) but today I was *VERY* pleasantly surprised how it lead me through the hike with absolutely minimum of preparing form my side.

      I give it thumbs up for that !
      Cheerz

  129. rabbit

    Yes, that seems to be to much for garmin. Users are waiting for years for that, but garmin is not listening and ignores the wishes of the users. After they have canceled garmin basecamp mobile, they told us, they will add the features of bcm to gc/gcm, but nothing like this happened.

  130. Peter L.

    I have had been using my fenix 5 since one week now. I really like it, however, it happens that auto pause is getting active while I’m cycling (not stopping!).
    It is certainly related to the speed showing 0 k despite I’m moving.
    Looks like a short gps signal loss which is causing auto pause to step in for a couple of seconds.

    Anybody else experiencing such issues?

    • CMP

      I suspect you are correct about the cause. Using several GPS devices, I’ve seen a variety of anomalies with current speed readings when using GPS only for cycling. As a result, I now use a Garmin speed sensor, which has resolved all those problems. Of course, you can also turn off auto pause, but that won’t fix other problems such as jerky, inconsistent speed numbers.

    • Peter L.

      You are right. A speed sensor makes sense.
      Therefore I bought a Wahoo speed sensor.
      However, now I experience that I can use either my Garmin GSC 10 cadence sensor or the Wahoo speed sensor via ANT+ at the same time.
      No problem with my 3rd party heart belt. This one doesn’t get kicked out.
      All sensors together worked only when I connect the Wahoo speed sensor via Bluetooth.

      Shouldn’t everything work via ANT+?

    • Paul S.

      The GSC-10 isn’t a cadence sensor, it’s a speed/cadence sensor. Pair with it and you’ve filed the speed slot, so you can’t pair another speed sensor. You shouldn’t need the Wahoo sensor if the GSC-10 is working properly, and you can’t turn it into a cadence only sensor if the speed part isn’t working.

  131. Martin Guttmann

    I thoroughly enjoy your articles and get a lot of information our of them. It’s time to reciprocate. Please let me know, how can I support you directly, without using US amazon. Obviously, I’m not residing in the US.
    Thanks, Martin

    • Hi Martin!

      Thanks for the offer! If you live in any European countries (or Canada), you can use Amazon in those countries (links right below the main Amazon logo on the right side). Alternatively, you can use Clever Training Europe too (links at the end of the review).

      Finally, as you’ve already done – you can become a DCR Supporter*, which I greatly appreciate!

      Thanks again!

      *For those wondering, here: link to dcrainmaker.com

  132. Thanks for the reply. Well maybe i’m unlucky with my watch. Here is an example on how the Garmin screws up compared to the Ambit3 Peak, it’s like this on almost all my runs. (Blue line is the Peak, Orange the Garmin)

    If you have time you can look at it.

    link to mygpsfiles.com

  133. Thanks for the reply. Well maybe i’m unlucky with my watch. Here is an example on how the Garmin screws up compared to the Ambit3 Peak, it’s like this on almost all my runs. (Blue line is the Garmin, Orange the Peak)

    If you have time you can look at it.

    link to mygpsfiles.com

    • That is what happens when you remove the GPS antenna and rely on the bezel instead. I have a clear air gap between the strap and the antenna on my Ambit 3 Peak so it would be physically impossible for it to cause a problem with fit. I suspect many of the “problems” related to this were psychological but manufacturers have to respond to the market however irrational it is.

      P.S. I have a Fenix 3 HR too. It was a real come down to use Garmin Connect for route creation after Movescount and so wrote this Chrome Plugin to try to improve it by getting a near full screen map. It still sucks but if you want stay inside Garmin’s impoverished ecosystem this might improve your experience a bit. I tend to use Movescount and export the GPX to the Fenix’s hidden NEWFILES folder.
      link to chrome.google.com

  134. Mikolaj

    Does Fenix 5x support multiple bikes like my old 910XT? I can’t find any option to select a bike.

    Thanks!

  135. Peter L.

    I only know the way over Garmin Connect.
    There you have the opportunity to create equipments and can assign it to workouts after uploading it to GC.

    • Mikolaj

      Thanks for reply. I’ve noticed the same. Unfortunately, this works a bit different. In 910XT you could pair eg. speed/cadence sensor with a specific bike. So, if you have 2 bikes and each has a separate sensor, the watch will know, which one to use.

      Also, the bikes had a few parameters, like weight. I think, it was used for some calculations, but this is a minor issue for me.

    • Correct, things changed a few years back, and all models follow the new sensor-pool concept.

      You can though assign a sensor an odometer reading. Just be sure the watch is in-range and connected to the sensor and you’ll be able to view the odometer.

  136. josh

    I just got myself a 935 and love it. Thinking I will get my wife the 5s. Questions… we are both ultra/adventure/fastpacking runners. Is there a limit to how much data both of these watches will store? Say we charge on the go, would it be able to keep the data for 50 hours of 1 second recording? Is there a file size limit?

    Thanks!

  137. Morgab

    Just wanted to say thank you for the great and detailed review! I can’t imagine how much time that took but I appreciate it because it is a big purchase and nice to be able to read and see what I could potentially get. So thank you again!

  138. Andrew Dorsett

    Garmin has the D2 Bravo Titanium pilot watch that is based on the Fenix but it hasn’t seen constant updates to stay in line with the Fenix family. With the “pilot features” just being software, you’d think that they would release the software load as an app for the Fenix 5 or 5X. Has there been any rumint at Garmin about doing this? I really would like to see a single watch that I can use for running, hiking and flying. Though making me buy two $850 watches is good business for them…

  139. Jim Correia

    I’m pretty happy with my Fenix 5, but instant space seems considerably spottier than my Garmin 620 (normally in trouble spots for GPS reception).

    I dug my old foot pod out, replace the battery, and paired it to see if that would improve things.

    Under Settings, it gives me a choice of Always or Indoor for speed? How should it be configured? I was under the impression (possibly from something Ray had written, but I can’t find it now), that the foot pod would automatically fill in when the GPS got spotty.

    • Cuse

      “Indoor” means it will only use it for indoor running (treadmill) activities. “Always” means it will use it for outdoor activities as well, and ignore GPS. I believe if you set it to “Always”, the GPS will fill in if there’s a footpod dropout. (Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.)

      I set mine for Speed – Indoor, and Distance – Indoor. Which means it will only use the footpod for pace and dinstance on my treadmill. I’ve tried using it outside, but I wasn’t happy with the results, so I just defaulted back to GPS. I just haven’t had time to calibrate it properly.

    • Jim Correia

      Thanks, Cuse.

      I was hoping it will fill in outdoors when GPS coverage was spotty, because that’s when pace is pretty lousy on my Fenix 5. (It’s also lousy on my Fenix 5 in areas where it was just fine on my 620.)

    • Cuse

      I hear ya. Instant pace is incredibly rough with my Fenix 5. My 235 was much better.

  140. nkofahl

    I’m more than a little worried about the ANT+ connectivity issues that are being reported around the web. The only sensor I’ve tested with the Fenix 5 has been a Wahoo Tickr X HRM using ANT+. I have some speed and cadence sensors on the way to play with on my bike, but what I really want is a stryd. Any new info on connectivity here? I’m hearing reports of things being “fine” if the watch and the stryd are on the same side of the body. I’m wondering if I should just exercise my return window and grab a 5x or 935 instead.

    • Cuse

      Stryd still won’t suggest the Stryd footpod for the Fenix 5 and 5s. I followed up with them last week. Several folks on the Garmin forums are still experiencing issues. I won’t risk spending $200 on the Stryd until I know it’ll be stable with my Fenix 5. Unfortunately I’m waaayy beyond my return window, or this Fenix 5 would be long gone.

    • nkofahl

      I bought mine from REI in part because I can return it for up to 1 year no questions asked. If they don’t fix this via firmware, it will be going back. I’ve had pretty good luck with my Wahoo Tickr X via ANT+ so far, but I’m not spending the money on this watch without sensor support being totally solid.

  141. Ivan

    Broken I phone
    Switch to androind

    I can not pair fenix to new android phone (garmin connect app) and fenix . Do I have first to unpair i phone and fenix… or..?

    Thanks in advance

  142. Weronika Foryś

    Hey, Is it possible to create a new sport to count calories, fatigue, heart rate (like tennis for ex.)?

  143. Phil O'Keeffe

    Great reviews of both the Garmin and Suunto.

    Just chasing your opinion as to which watch would best suit me for my purposes. I currently use two a Fitbit for day to day stuff heart rate sleep and various activities and a Swimmo for swimming which simply is crap. The heart rate is so inaccurate and it does not have an open water function nor GPS. Looking to replace two with one.
    Initially I was set on the Suunto Spartan Ultra but now I’m leaning towards the Garmin Fenix 5X after your reviews. Has anything changed since these reviews re updates or upgrades?

    I swim 5-6 days a week and at least one of those days is in the ocean. On any given week I do a minimum of 17km in the pool and 4-6km in the ocean, I have decided to do the solo channel swim to Rottnest Island next year (19.7km) as I have done many teams and duo’s but not a solo, so I’m looking at tracking training and progress better. The other aspect of my activity includes some but not a lot of cycling but a significant amount of walking at least one big walk a week 20+km and seek out different tracks each week for myself and my dogs to do.

    I workout in the gym 3-5 times a week as well and have competed in bodybuilding comps for a few years now in fitness and physique divisions (tested & clean federations to I might add INBA & ICN) But my main goal and focus is swimming atm.

    So chasing some vindication if you may before I spend my money on either, I will be using a chest strap for whichever one I get for heart rate while swimming as it is just not accurate otherwise.

    Thanks in advance Phil

  144. nkofahl

    Ray, have you (or anyone else) tried the 4.21 beta on the Fenix 5 yet? I noticed there is a sensor hub update in the file and wondering if that might improve the situation with Stryd and other ANT+ devices that seem to drop connection.

  145. Daniele

    Hi there everyone and Ray… playing with my new 5X… was not able to upload more than 5 courses… (all the 11 I was trying to create were made with Bikemap and have very similar characteristics). Anyone experiencing the same? (all software is updated) and I’m placing the created GPX in the NewFiles folder.

  146. Peter Németh

    Hi!

    I have recently bought a Fenix 5X. I tried to have more than one structured workout on it but it seems to replace the old one with the new one, have you encountered this issue?

    Best regards,
    Peter N

    • Peter Németh

      Clarfication: I have tried to download two structured workouts from Garmin Connect, but I can only see the latest one.

  147. Ryan

    Just upgraded from Fenix 3 to a sapphire Fenix 5. On my first ride this morning, the watch was connecting/disconnecting from my phone constantly. I have since wiped my Galaxy S7 cache and also made the watch a ‘Trusted’ device. I have the watch on my left hand and phone in my cycling shirts right pocket, surely that is not an issue. There was a slight difference in power readings too, so I will keep a close eye on that as Ant + drop outs would be a deal breaker.

    The HR was also way off, it seemed to fall off a cliff during my ride. I had my 510 connected to my chest strap, I did suspect that it would be too far off to be relied upon so will keep wearing the chest strap for bike rides.

    I have not read any of the comments as yet so forgive me if these issues have already been brought up. I will go read some now.

    • Markus G

      Unfortunately the unstable BT and ANT+ connectivity is a known issue that many owners of the F5 are experiencing.

      There is even a sticky in the official Garmin forums:
      link to forums.garmin.com

    • nkofahl

      I have a Galaxy S8+ and a Fennix 5 sapphire. The bluetooth range for the phone connection is quite poor, but I’ve had no issues with it disconnecting while on a ride. I am not using the native bluetooth pairing, rather just the standard connection via the connect app.

      As for ANT+ sensors, I seem to be suffering an occasional HRM and cadence sensor drop when the watch is on my bars. I’m going to replace the battery in my Wahoo Tickr X to verify that isn’t the issue, but it appears that the watch freaks out and drops both HRM and Cadence at the same time. This leads me to believe it is a software glitch on the watch rather than an antenna issue. I also have a speed sensor, but i think speed data drops are probably masked by the GPS.

      I’m running the 4.21 beta. If the performance doesn’t get better I’ll return the watch to REI and replace with a Spartan or Fenix 5x

  148. JR

    I’m consistently getting no more than two full days of battery life out of my 5s. That’s with GPS & Glonass, 1 second recording, OHR, about 2.25 hours of activity per day (2 workouts, sometimes a third), and bluetooth notifications on all day. This has been pretty consistent. I’ll be down to 5% when I charge it no more than 48 hours after the last time I charged it. I still consider that perfectly usable, since it charges very quickly, but it’s still a bit frustrating.

    • nkofahl

      While i have a 5, not a 5s, that does not in any way match my experience. I did a week last week with easily 8 hours of GPS use and was down to 35% when i plugged it in on the 7th day.

  149. Michael

    Thank you for this awesome review. Comprehensive,thoroughly done,and I love the field testing. Hands down the best review on any product I have on the internet. Bravo! I bought the fenix 5 and love it.

    Question: I have the Garmin heart strap. Every year the battery dies. I follow all the directions in putting in a new 2032 battery. I have emailed Garmin support. No matter what I do it does not work. I’ll get a day out of at most and then it stops transmitting. New batteries, leaving the battery out, pairing it again etc. Nothing! So I buy a new Garmin hr monitor strap and it works. Very frustrating. Any ideas.

    Also does the polar h7 work well with the fenix 5?

    Thank you

    • Yeah, it sounds like your older HR strap had a short in it, causing the battery burn you see. It’s rare, but I hear of it about 1-2 times a year here.

      Depending how old it is you can see if Garmin will swap it out, but if it’s more than a few years old, it’s unlikely they would.