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Garmin Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus In-Depth Review (with Maps, Music, Payments)


Today Garmin announced the new Fenix 5 Plus series, which takes the existing Fenix 5/5S/5X and injects full onboard color mapping, onboard music, and contactless payments.  Additionally there’s new Galileo GPS support for higher accuracy, new smart notification privacy features, and locking the GPS altitude to the elevation data in the maps themselves, among other features.

Meanwhile, the higher end Fenix 5X Plus also gets new Pulse Oximetry hardware/software solution that’s even likely to be approved as a medical device.  Atop all that are a pile of new software features, most heavily focused on the hiking realm, but also applicable to other sports as well.

I’ve been using three final production loaner units for more than two months now across a wide variety of landscapes and sports.  I travelled specifically to the peaks of the French Alps to test this watch and the also recent entrant Suunto 9 on fairly demanding trails.  Add to that the usual complement of swim/bike/run, and I’ve got a gaggle of test data to work with.  As usual though, once I’m done with these loaner units for this review I’ll be sending them back to Garmin, then going out and getting my own elsewhere.

With that – let’s dive into things.

What’s new:


While this product is technically named the Fenix 5 Plus, in reality there’s enough new stuff here that Garmin could easily have called it a Fenix 6.  I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t, because I think it undercuts just how much new stuff is here.  Nonetheless, I’m going to itemize everything ‘new’ in the below list, which is largely in comparison to the existing Fenix 5 (non-Plus).  Where new features originated with other Garmin watches, I’ve noted that.

Of course I dive into everything in this list (good and bad) throughout the review.  This is simply aimed to be a consolidated pile for those wanting to quickly get up to speed:

– Added up to 16GB of full-color maps to all three Plus watches – 5/5S/5X (only 5X has maps previously)
– Added Garmin Trendline popularity routing data to map sets (first seen in Edge 1030 last summer)
– Added ability to use known elevation data from onboard maps + known GPS coordinates to calibrate altimeter
– Added music capability to watch (both direct music files and iHeartRadio/Deezer offline sync, started on Garmin FR645 Music first)
– Slightly improved Bluetooth headphone connectivity reception over Garmin FR645 Music.
– Added contactless NFC payments to watch (initially on Garmin Vivoactive 3, then other units since)
– Added Galileo GPS support via new GPS chipset (initially seen Galileo in Garmin Edge 130)
– Change GPS algorithms in conjunction with new hardware for claimed better edge case handling
– Improved antenna/communications chipset performance, should resolve sensor dropouts issues for mostly 3rd party sensors
– Added ClimbPro, which splits up climbs on courses into individual chunks (better explained in Navigation section below)
– Added PulseOx to Fenix 5X Plus (only), which is pulse oximetry data using onboard red-LED sensor
– Added full golf course dataset to all units (40,000 courses cached on watch now)
– Added Privacy mode for smartphone notifications on watch so that message contents aren’t displayed automatically (only upon wrist turn or button press)
– Increased battery performance to 32hrs in 1-second GPS mode and 85 hours in UltraTrack mode (for 5X Plus specifically)
– Increased price by $150 for base models

To consolidate everything in one tidy video I’ve put together this masterpiece of…well…something. It basically summarizes thousands of words into less time than it takes to drink 6 cups of coffee. Plus, everyone likes moving pictures.

Ready to get into the weeds? Then hold on, this review is a beast! Perhaps the most detailed and longest one I’ve written to date.



There are nearly as many variants of the Fenix 5 Plus series as Brady Bunch kids. Actually, correction, there are technically more. Once you include Sapphire glass variants and DLC coating variants, then you’re talking 15 total variants – far more than the six Brady Bunch kids and three adult members of the show.  Here’s an entire listing of the pricing variants (all prices dual USD/EUR):

Fenix 5S Plus:

  • Base (699): White w/silver bezel, regular glass display, sea foam silicone band
  • Base (unisex – Europe only) (699): Black w/silver bezel, regular glass display, black silicone band
  • Mid (799): White w/silver bezel, Sapphire glass display, white silicone band
  • Mid (unisex) (799): Black w/black bezel, Sapphire glass display, black silicone band
  • High (849): White w/rose gold tone bezel, Sapphire glass display, white silicone band
  • High (849): White w/ silver bezel, Sapphire glass display, leather band
  • Ultra (999): White w/ rose gold tone bezel, Sapphire glass display, rose gold tone metal band

Fenix 5 Plus:

  • Base (699): Black w/Silver, regular glass display, black silicone band
  • Mid (799): Black w/Black, Sapphire glass display, black silicone band
  • High (849): Gray w/Titanium (bezel/rear case), Sapphire glass display, orange silicone band
  • High (849): Black w/Black bezel, Sapphire glass display, black leather band
  • Ultra (1099): Grey w/DLC Titanium (bezel/rear case), Sapphire glass display, DLC Titanium metal band

Fenix 5X Plus:

  • Mid (849): Black w/ Black bezel, Sapphire glass display, black silicone band
  • High (899): Black w/ Grey bezel, Sapphire glass display, brown leather band
  • Ultra (1149): Grey w/ DLC Titanium (bezel/rear case), Sapphire glass display, DLC Titanium metal band

Now, I didn’t have all 15 editions to unbox. And even if I did, it’d be more boring than watching paint dry (even 15 colors of paint).  Instead, I got three editions to unbox.  A variant of the 5S+, 5+, and 5X+. Within the video I compare the sizes as well as weights, plus a look at it next to the Suunto 9.

As for this post, instead of unboxing all 15 variants, here’s a single edition unboxed – the Fenix 5S Plus mid-range variant without any of the fancy bands.  First up, we take that box we saw above and remove its top:


Then, we take out the interior box and shelf holding up the watch:


Finally, we get the the parts removed. There’s not many parts. It’s merely the USB charging/sync cable, as well as the Fenix 5 Plus manual. Additionally, there’s a small warning guide.  Oh, and the watch itself.


Here’s a closer look at the watch once removed from the foam insert.

DSC_6701 DSC_6703

The charging cable meanwhile is the same as the previous Fenix 5 series. No changes there.


And like the previous Fenix 5 series, the units still use QuickFit straps. Each watch has a different size strap though, so the 5/5S/5X all are different widths.


And finally, the manual. You won’t need it after this.


Note, I’ll be adding in a massive Fenix 5 Plus unboxing Festivus video of all the versions…once I finish editing the huge pile of footage from that and two other videos.

The Basics:


If you’re familiar with the Fenix or higher end Forerunner series (such as the FR935), you won’t find much of a difference in the Fenix 5 Plus range in terms of basics like activity tracking or such.  All of that remains the same, save one single feature around privacy options for smartphone notifications that I’ll dig into in a little bit.

There’s no more natural place to start with the basics than the watch face.  By default, this will show your current altitude, current heart rate, and date/time, along with your steps.  But all of this is customizable, such as the data elements.  You can blend from the default watch faces, or you can download gazillions of others from the Connect IQ App Store.  Or you can stick a picture of your cat on the background too. Whatever floats your boat.

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-Watchface-Customize Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-Watch-Face-Customize

From an activity tracking standpoint, the unit will track your steps, sleep, stairs, and heart rate.  All of which can be seen by pressing the up/down buttons and scrolling through the different widgets.  You can also download other widgets as well for apps like weather (again, also from the Connect IQ app store).  Here’s a small gallery of widgets on my watch:

The activity tracking data is then transmitted automatically to Garmin Connect via the Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app.  It’s here you can see all that activity tracking data.  You can look at it on a per-day basis as well as a weekly and monthly view.

2018-06-17 22.56.24 2018-06-17 22.57.03 2018-06-17 22.57.09

In the case of sleep, last week Garmin added REM sleep cycle data that you can view as well.  The Fenix 5 Plus series supports that by default out of the box, and allows you to see a breakdown of sleep phases.  This can also be plotted over various timeframes.

2018-06-17 22.57.24 2018-06-17 22.57.34

Note that Garmin devices do not account for naps however in your overall sleep metrics, which is a bit of a bummer.  Though, most watch vendors don’t account for them either.

By leveraging the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit you’ll get two core 24×7 metrics displayed as well, which is 24×7 heart rate (HR), and 24×7 stress.  The 24×7 HR measures at 1-second intervals and tracks your resting HR data.  Resting HR can be used to track fatigue and is generally a good indicator of whether you may be getting sick or over-trained.  I detail a bunch more on using that data here.

2018-06-17 22.59.02 2018-06-17 22.59.09

I will note that my resting HR values do seem more consistent here than some devices I’ve seen in the past.  Specifically, it seems to be doing a better job of tracking my lower RHR values (i.e., low-40’s), than it used to, where it would seem to ignore those values when displaying the minimum RHR value for the day.

Finally, on the basics front, you’ve got smartphone notifications.  These notifications can be controlled from the apps and notification centers on your smartphone itself.  Though, there are overrides for aspects like ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode that you can implement on the watch itself.  Additionally, you can specify whether you want notifications to appear during workouts or not, as well as non-workout times or not.  All of this is customizable.

What’s new to the Fenix 5 Plus series in this scene is the ability to enable privacy mode for notifications. This allows you to not display the contents of the message (or notification) until you press a button on the watch or turn your wrist.  The purpose of this would be sitting at a table/meeting with others and having notifications show up automatically. Perhaps eggplant and peach related texts from your BFF.  Historically, these would instantly be shown for all to see.  Whereas on something like an Apple Watch, these wouldn’t be shown till you rotated your wrist.  Now Garmin follows the same methodology as those watches, and can restrict it until you want it shown.

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-PrivacyMode Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-PrivacyModeGestures

This is a much welcomed change.  While it’s still not as nuanced as Apple (in terms of waiting to show anything at all until your rotate-wrist), it’s definitely a boatload better.  Note that by default the privacy notification mode is not enabled.

Want all the user interface/menu details? No problem – here’s a big long video that goes through all the menus, as I walk through the watch one section at a time.

Ok, that wraps up all of the non-sport specific things.  The rest of the post is focused on the sporting/mapping/PulseOx/etc aspects of things.

Sport Usage:

Like aspects covered in the basics section, things are actually virtually identical to the Fenix 5 series in here as well (except some climbing/navigation/mapping pieces I discuss in the next section). However, do note the inclusion of Galileo GPS satellites, which I’ll briefly cover here, but also dive into more in the accuracy section down below.

To start a sport on the Fenix 5 Plus you’ll simply tap the upper right button to get the sport menu so you can select which sport you want.


There are piles of sports to select, including the ability to create custom sports and download apps that also operate in the same manner as a sport.  In total, here are all the sport modes available by default:

Trail Run, Run, Hike, Bike, Bike Indoor, Open Water Swim, Triathlon, Golf, Navigate, Track Me, Map, Multisport, Treadmill, Indoor Track, Climb, MTB, Pool Swim, Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski, SUP, Row, Row Indoor, TruSwing (Golf related), Project Waypoint, Walk, SwimRun, Kayak, Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Floor Climb, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Jumpmaster, Tactical, Boat, Other [Custom]


Once you select a sport mode it’ll go off and find satellites and sensors if applicable.  You’ll see the red line at the top turn to a green line for satellites.  And any sensors will display once connected.  This can be anything from cycling power meters to inReach devices to heart rate straps.  Interestingly, the heart rate lock icon no longer displays by default here, rather, you have to press the ‘Up’ button to see that it’s locked. Battery status and smartphone connectivity is also displayed in this same spot. Personally, I think it should always show HR status over any other icon, given how important it is to get HR lock correctly. But I suspect they assume that you’re wearing the watch constantly so it always has HR lock anyway (probably a fair assumption).

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-StartSportModes Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-QuickAccess

Once ready to go you’ll press the upper right start button again to begin recording and tracking.  At this point, it’ll leverage GPS and sensors to display stats applicable to your particular sport.  For example, here’s a small gallery of data screens while running yesterday:

All of these screens are customizable, and you can create/add new pages/screens as you see fit (a crapton of them, more than I could create). There are also stock screens with certain data types, including Virtual Partner, Compass, Elevation, Map, and Music controls.

However, custom data pages can have up to four data fields on them, in a variety of patterns.  You can choose the pattern and then choose the individual data fields to add to those pages:

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-DataPage-Layouts Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-PaceFields Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-DescentDataFields

There’s simply no watch on the market from anyone that has as much depth of data fields/metrics as the Fenix series.  It’d probably take half this review in text to list them all.  Even more so when you consider you can download what I’d presume to be thousands of data fields from Connect IQ as well for other data metrics.

For example, the Stryd Running Power Meter data field.  This data field connects to the Stryd sensor and allows you to see running power as well as other running efficiency metrics.  You’ll add this data field to your watch, and then from there you can add it to a custom data page.


This then displays that data during your run, and records it for access later on, to Garmin Connect (viewable on Garmin Connect as well as Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app).  It’s also in the recorded .FIT files, so you can use 3rd party apps to display the data too.

At which point you may be asking if the ANT+ related connectivity issues of the Fenix 5/5S are resolved? It appears so. Garmin themselves has said they redesigned aspects of the hardware here to address things, and my testing out on the road with Stryd on a Fenix 5 Plus shows clean data (whereas in the past I got useless/broken Stryd data on the Fenix 5/5S). One of the core reasons I went to the FR935 as my day to day watch is that it worked with Stryd.  Here’s a nice clean graph from yesterday’s run with Stryd (or you can check out my Garmin Connect file here):


I’ve also had no problems connecting to other sensors.  The only slightly notable exception to that is that I’ve found the Garmin inReach Mini, when attached to the back of my backpack, the connection drops a fair bit. Connected to the side of my backpack it’s fine. On the FR935 I didn’t seem to have the same issues with top/back of backpack connectivity.  On the other sensor front, I’ve largely used power meters (Vector 3, Stages LR, Favero Assioma, SRM Exakt specifically), and the Wahoo SPEED ANT+ speed sensor.

Additionally, note that the Fenix 5 Plus follows in line with the Fenix 5 series in allowing connectivity to ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors.  The full list of sensor types is as follows:

Headphones (Bluetooth), External Heart Rate (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart), Speed/Cadence (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart), Cycling Power Meters (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart), Footpods (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart), VIRB Action Camera (ANT+), Tempe temperature sensor (ANT+), Shimano Di2 (private-ANT), Cycling Gear Shifting (ANT+), Cycling Lights (ANT+), Cycling Radar (ANT+), Extended Display (ANT+), RD Pod (ANT+), Muscle O2 (ANT+), Garmin inReach (ANT+).

So basically, anything and everything you could want. Also, it supports Garmin’s ‘Xero’ lineup of range finders/sights.  The only notable exception to the list above is cycling ANT+ FE-C trainers, which are not connectable here.

You can save/connect multiple sensors of the same type.  For example, if you have multiple bikes, each with their own cadence sensors on them, it’ll save those and automatically connect to them when those sensors turn on.  Additionally, via data fields and apps, companies can create their own sensor types.  We’re seeing that with aerodynamic sensors like what I’ve previewed recently in the AeroPod.

After your workout is complete you’ll get summary data from the workout that you can look at on the watch.  This includes things like distance, calories, and heart rate zones.  Additionally, you’ll get PR’s (personal records) displayed as well as recovery stats.

In addition, the Fenix 5 Plus supports all of the latest FirstBeat driven training load and recovery metrics.  These are viewable after a run, as well as via the Training Status widget at any time.


When you dive further into this widget it’ll show you running and cycling VO2Max (cycling requires a power meter though):

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-VO2Max-Trainingstatus-Running Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-VO2Max-Trainingstatus-Cycling

Additionally, it’ll show your recovery time remaining until your next hard workout:


Lastly, it’ll show your training load over the last 7 days.  Note that for VO2Max and load related stats, these stabilize best after 30 days of workouts.  So initially the numbers in the first week or two are a bit fuzzy, and then they get more clear over time.  With Garmin’s new Physio TrueUp you’ll get these records synchronized from other devices – like an Edge series device such as the Edge 1030.

I covered how Training Load works in last year’s Fenix 5 in-depth review, so check out that specific training load section for all the details (it hasn’t changed here).


Finally, your total workout information for a given activity is available on Garmin Connect and transmitted to partner sites that you’ve authorized (i.e., Strava). Here’s a quick look at two activities recorded via the Fenix 5 Plus watches. First is a hike in the Alps on the Fenix 5X Plus.  Second is a recent run with the Fenix 5 Plus. Both of those links go to the actual activity itself, if you want to view it. In the case of the run, it was with Stryd, hence the additional data fields.



Phew, got all that? Good, it’s time to head into the mountains and talk mapping, navigation, and climbing.

ClimbPro, Maps, and Navigating:


For many people, when they saw the original Fenix 5 had mapping onboard they were pretty excited. Until they found out that it was only the largest of units – the 5X. Sure, that drove the 5X to be Garmin’s most popular seller, but it didn’t drive everyone to buy that watch. Folks like myself simply found it too big for their wrists.

With the Fenix 5 Plus series though, all watches – no matter the SKU or size – get full onboard mapping.  Maps are included for the ‘region’ in which you buy it.  Meaning that folks in North America get North America maps, folks in Europe get Europe maps, and so on.  The maps provided are the ‘TopoActive’ map set, which looks like regular maps with topographic data atop it.  While these maps are OSM-based (OpenStreetMap), they have a layer of special sauce that sits atop it, which provides what Garmin dubs ‘Trendline Popularity Routing’.

Essentially that special sauce takes the hundreds of millions of workouts uploaded each year and figures out the most popular routes from them.  Basically just like a heatmap of sorts.  That way when it comes to routing to a given point (if you don’t have a specific course/route assigned), it’ll leverage that data to figure out the best pedestrian or cycling-friendly route. Thus avoiding bad routes or routes that real cyclists/runners don’t actually use. This functionality was introduced back on the Edge 1030 last summer, and then continued into the Edge 520 Plus a few months back.

Note that you can’t see any ‘heatmaps’ on the Fenix 5 Plus maps, rather, it’s just data that’s used in routing decisions.  In any case, here’s what a typical map looks like in a more dense area (up above you can see it in a less dense area):


I’ll circle back to maps in a moment while showing you routing, but I want to touch on the next new feature first – ClimbPro. This feature allows you to see the elevation profile of your climbs for specified routes.  Now, I know what you’re saying: “But we could already see the elevation profile for routes”! And that’s true, but this (ClimbPro) splits up your specific climbs within your route.  The problem with the overall route elevation profile is that the scale just doesn’t work well for longer hikes.  That’s because the distance is too long, and you don’t really get the detail you want in terms of how long is this specific climb.

Thus, ClimbPro automatically slices and dices the climbs within your route and shows them individually.  As you ascend each portion, it’ll list the elevation/grade/distance details for that specific climb.  You can still see your overall route elevation profile on another page if you want, but this is all about the current climb.  And honestly, it’s flippin’ awesome (when it works).


So, to decode up above, you’ve got:

Distance Climbed of this climb: 1.03mi
Current Ascent: 676ft
Average Gradient: 15%
Vertical Speed: 1300ft/hour
Time for climb: 1:36:03 (I had to take some fugly detours)
Climb Number: 1 of 1

In my case for both of these high-elevation hikes, there was merely one climb – up a lot.  Garmin says that if you had a route with multiple climbs on it that it automatically divides these climbs up for you.  Unfortunately, living in Amsterdam, the only climb I’d be able to find is a canal bridge.  Still, for my time in the Alps, it was super cool and became my default data page when hiking.

The only downside was that I did see some bugs with ClimbPro when I reached the top of the climb I got weird data displayed (i.e., non-valid climb profiles). When I had to go off-course in terms of route (i.e., due to snow), I got mixed behavior.  In some cases it kept the ClimbPro page up to date on the vertical ascent/profile piece, whereas other times it lost the plot.  I actually liked that it kept me updated about the climb even when not on the route, as spring-time hiking in the Alps means lots of diversions due to snow, landslides/past avalanches, brush not cleared, etc… So diversions are a fact of life.  I suspect this will be sorted out soon enough.

A couple of final tidbits on ClimbPro.  When in between climbs it’ll show details in grey for the next climb (upcoming climb).  The elevation data is gathered from either that of the course creation tool (i.e., Garmin Connect), or if building a route on the watch itself, then it’ll use the DEM data within the pre-loaded maps on the watch.

Next we’ve got maps and navigation, which I’ll roll into one.  The Fenix 5 Plus series takes the mapping aspects of the previous 5X unit and brings them to all 5 Plus watches.  This means that when you buy a unit now you’ll get maps for your specific region.  Thus if in Europe you get TopoActive Europe, and if in North America you get North America, and so on.  What happens if you travel?  Well, annoyingly you still need to either buy or download maps for those regions.  Buying from Garmin costs money, but you can also use free OSM maps as well.  I did this on one watch of mine when in the Alps, as that watch was initially loaded as a US unit.  No big deal to do, but still annoying.

To put it in perspective, if you didn’t have maps for the region you were in, this is what you’d see (just your track and route):

2018-05-29 19.09.07

The map page is visible from any outdoor sport profile that you want, and will automatically show your current track atop it.  You can zoom in/out and pan around using the buttons, which works fairly well (and avoids the messiness of a touchscreen in harsh conditions):


When you want to go somewhere, you’ve got roughly two options for doing so. The first is to decide on where you want to go entirely within the unit itself. The Fenix 5 Plus includes a points of interest database within it, and thus you can find shops, monuments, and other POI’s directly on the device.  At which point you can have it create a route to it (and it’ll use the previously mentioned Trendline Popularity routing as well):

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-POI-Map Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-POI-Publix

You can also route from the watch to specific coordinates or saved locations, as well as just pick a point on the map.  Further, you can have it create a course (hiking/running/cycling only) based on a preferred length (called ‘Round-Trip Course’), if you want the variety that is the spice of life.

The second method is to follow a specific course (which can also include past activities).  When following a specific course it’s something you downloaded/transferred to the unit. These can be created using a variety of applications/platforms, including Garmin Connect itself (which means you’d also leverage that popularity data too).  Transferring a route to the unit can be done via USB or Bluetooth Smart.


Once a route is on the unit you can access it via the ‘Navigate’ app or a specific sport app and selecting ‘Navigate > Courses’, which then allows you to specify a course and follow it.


Before you do so though, you can preview the course map (left), elevation (center), and climbs for ClimbPro (right):

Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-Course-Map Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-Course-Altitude-Profile Garmin-Fenix5-Plus-Course-ClimbPro

Once on a course it’ll give you turn notifications as you approach turns, and detail on the remaining time/duration left in the course.

Now in the past you had breadcrumb trail navigation (without maps, except on the 5X).  Where I’ve found maps to be particularly useful though is when you’ve got trails that splinter into a number of smaller trails.  Sometimes with just breadcrumbs it’s difficult to know exactly which trail is the right trail, since you can’t see the other trails on the map to know which of three trails is correct.  The below trail fork was a perfect example of that. When navigating without map details it was impossible to know which one was correct.  I would have had to have gone a little ways on the trail and then waited for an ‘off-course’ error, or found out it was right by no error.  With the maps, I could establish context immediately.

2018-05-30 10.04.40

What you see above on the map is my planned route going up to the left, my past track down to the right, and then up to the right if you look carefully you see a dotted line of a trail.  This part specifically (the dotted trail), made it easy to figure out which way was which in the woods.

Of course, plenty of people have gotten away without maps for years on their watches, and only have breadcrumbs.  But at the same time, plenty of people have previously loved the 5X (or the Apple Watch with certain apps) and having maps on them.  Once you’ve got the maps and have used them, they’re incredibly helpful.  The only issue I take with Garmin’s approach is the loading of maps for outside your region.  It’s just unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive.  Other companies like Wahoo and Sigma make it easy/trivial/free to download OSM map data for other regions, whereas Garmin is charging $69+ for these OSM-based maps.  And it’s not like Garmin’s download process is simple and seamless.

If Garmin’s download process took mere seconds to pick a region and then charged a small fee (such as $5-10 because of the added heatmap data baked in), I could kinda understand a fee.  But the process today just isn’t as clean and easy as it should be for the higher price.

Still, at the end of the day for most people the newly included maps combined with ClimbPro and minor bonus features like being able to snap your initial elevation point to the DEM data from the map based on your GPS position, are all features that are much wanted and highly appreciated.

PulseOx (5X Plus Only):


Perhaps the most notable feature of the Fenix 5 Plus series is the one feature only seen on the 5X Plus: PulseOx.  This is unlike anything Garmin has done previously, not because of the fact it has a shiny red sensor, but because of the fact that they’ve charted a course taking them directly into medical certification waters.  First though, let me explain what it is.

PulseOx is the buzz term for pulse oxygen saturation levels, otherwise known as SpO2. There are multiple uses for this, but in the athletic sense, climbers have long used this at high altitude scenarios to monitor such levels.  In doing so they can be more aware of situations which can lead to some pretty serious immediate health/safety/security issues.  If you’re into high-altitude scenarios, there’s plenty of resources to read on the topic.

But ultimately, PulseOx gives you a specific value – such as 65% or 80% or 95%.  if I’m at sea level and all is well, I could be at 98%.  Whereas, if I’m at 10,000ft/3048m, then I could be at 85%.  As I climb higher, that value decreases.  But there is no specific hard and fast rule on what’s considered safe or not.  It’s not as simple as saying 65% is cause for concern for everyone, because in some people it could be 75% or 80%.  Whereas another person is 65%.  Most climbing outfits will note it’s a blend of having a trained guide look at the numbers given alongside experience diagnosing someone.  Still, it can be valuable.

In any event, as for the 5X Plus, it features a special red channel that is quite visible on the bottom of the unit. Meaning, it has extra hardware the 5S/5 Plus don’t have.  Here’s the red LED when turned on:


Collecting a reading takes anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, and is generally most successful when not moving (just pausing for a second while walking is usually good enough in my testing).  This is in line with how most climbers monitor these levels today – pausing to use small sensors to take readings.


The Fenix 5X Plus will then spit back this reading and chart it over the altitude over the last 24 hours:


You can also see this data in a different chart over the last 7 days as well.  My specific photo of this isn’t terribly ideal, since I wasn’t wearing the 5X all the time (was switching between watches), but you can get the idea:


You can manually take as many readings as you’d like, or alternatively you can have it automatically take readings.  This roughly ends up being every 15 minutes or so, assuming you’re not moving.  At this point the data isn’t yet plotted on Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app), though that’s in the works.  Note that if you set it to check every 15 minutes, you’ll burn through more battery.

In playing with this in the Alps, it was pretty cool to watch these numbers start to fluctuate as I climbed.  And in the vast majority of cases they trended in the directions I expected.  If I went higher, they’d decrease, and if I went lower, they’d increase.


The only issue I had some three weeks ago on beta firmware is that due to a reset during an activity, I lost the day’s worth of readings (right before I was set to take a super cool photo of it). While I haven’t had any resets since (and multiple firmware versions since), I can’t say for certain that this bug – specifically the lack of saving data – has been solved.

Still, the more immediate question you may then ask is whether or not this crosses into the realm of a medical device.  After all, most PulseOx units that you’d buy are often considered medical devices.  Garmin’s answer: Kinda, sorta, maybe.

It’s actually a bit more complex than that. See, Garmin has been working with the FDA on the medical device aspects.  They, alongside Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung are all part of a pilot program/working group around ‘software medical devices’.  This means that an app developer can come along and develop a specific app that is considered a legit medical device.  For example, someone could come along and develop a Connect IQ app atop the PulseOx technology that’s fully certified as a software medical device.  But the onus there would be on that specific app, not necessarily Garmin (or Apple/Fitbit/Samsung), to pass certification tests.

So that begs the question: Who might go forward on making such an app?

And funny enough – the answer there might actually be Garmin themselves.

When asked whether they’d consider it, they said it was “Well within their wheelhouse”.

Garmin says they’re pretty confident in their PulseOx technology, and are considering paying the $50,000USD fee to get the FDA certification, even if just “for fun”.  They walked through some of the detail on that specific test, and it’s actually a surprisingly low bar (even compared to some of the rigors that myself and other readers put heart rate and GPS sensors to).  For example, the FDA pulse oximetry certification test (see section 4) is done totally stationary indoors sitting in a chair. The person needn’t be standing or outside (both more complex).  Next, the variance is +/- 3.5%, but that’s not a straight +/- 3.5 value, as there are allowances for outliers as well.

Which isn’t to say that Garmin is shooting for a lower bar. Everyone’s shooting at that same bar. Don’t hate the bar, it is what it is.  And at this point, that bar has proven to be more than useful enough for boatloads of people globally to use SpO2 readings for a wide variety of applications.  And Garmin deciding to fork out the cash to get it certified (which they feel pretty confident they’ll pass, based on their own testing), would be a significant milestone in consumer wearable companies moving into the medical device realm.

Finally, for those curious on why specifically they didn’t put it within the smaller 5/5S Plus units, the reason was a blend of a few factors. Garmin says that the battery constraints were less in the larger 5X (given its size it had more room internally), and atop that – they wanted to give something unique to the 5X Plus over the less expensive units. Similar to how the 5X (original) had mapping while the original 5/5S didn’t. It wouldn’t be hard to see this quickly shifting to other watches down the road if Garmin sees consumers finding value in it.

(Note: I didn’t specifically go out and buy a high-quality comparison testing device to compare against. Garmin specifically recommended the Nellcor Portable SpO2 unit, which is about $500-$600 if I were to consider doing so and wanted trustable results, mainly because they’re considered some of the best out there.  They noted that some of the lower end $18 devices you’ll find on Amazon aren’t necessarily medical-grade nor high quality.  I’m open to buying something that’s high-end enough to use on this and other future devices, so if you’re in the field, feel free to drop suggestions in the comments…and perhaps click that ‘DCR Supporter’ button while you’re at it… Winking smile)



In a move that will surprise exactly nobody, Garmin has rolled out music support to the Fenix 5 Plus.  This follows the Forerunner 645 Music this past winter and the Vivoactive 3 Music last week.  In the case of all of Garmin’s music-capable watches, tunes manifest itself in two basic ways:

A) Manually copied music files: These are saved MP3 files, playlists and the like that you sync via USB cable to your computer
B) Streaming services cached files: These are offline playlists/favorites from music services like iHeartRadio and Deezer, cached for playback when not near connectivity

The music features mirror that of the Forerunner 645 Music, edging out the Vivoactive 3 Music in a few minor ways.  Specifically that the Vivoactive 3 Music lacks audio alerts for things like pace and laps, which the FR645/Fenix 5 Plus have.  Second is that the Fenix 5 Plus/645 Music have the ability to add a music page to your workouts data pages, whereas the Vivoactive 3 Music lacks that ability, adding a couple extra steps to change songs mid-workout.

2018-06-18 06.12.32 2018-06-18 06.12.43

But let’s step back a second and talk about how you listen to music. To do that you’ll need a Bluetooth audio device of some sort. Headphones would be most common (here’s what I mostly used this time around), but it also could be a crappy Amazon Basics $15 speaker, or a not-so-crappy BMW car.  In the Bluetooth audio realm, the world is your oyster. Except Apple Airpods. That oyster doesn’t work so well here from what I’m told (I lack them to test), as they also aren’t super compatibility friendly with other Bluetooth devices either.

In order to connect your headphones you can go through a variety of menus to pair them. Be it the normal sensors menu or the music-specific portions, all roads lead to the below. You can pair multiple Bluetooth audio devices if you happen to have that. Of course, only one can be used concurrently

DSC_6614 DSC_6615

Once paired up you’ll want to get music on the unit.  The first method is via Garmin Express (Mac or PC), allowing you to ‘watch’ music folders (you can customize which ones), and then select playlists/albums/songs/artists/etc to transfer over:


Note that while you can sync podcasts, that has to be done via desktop. It can’t be done via WiFi unfortunately, meaning it’s…well…cumbersome for frequent updating.  Garmin has said in the past that they’d like to get there, but it’s unclear if there’s a timeframe for that.

In any event, the actual process of syncing music is pretty darn quick, but the inventorying of even a small music library can take a heck of a long time.  All Fenix 5 Plus units have 16GB of storage space on them, of which about 14.5GB is addressing.  However, after maps and such you’re left with about 10GB of usable music space (which you can actually use for music).  Note that you don’t technically have to use Garmin Express to move music onto the device. You can just drag it on via other apps as well…like Windows Explorer:


Next, there are the streaming services. As of today that’s just iHeartRadio, though supposedly soon Deezer.  To get these files on, you’ll need to configure WiFi.  You cannot sync these streaming services via USB (or Bluetooth Smart, which is too slow/bandwidth limited).  In order to get started (in the case of iHeartRadio), you’ll activate your device to your iHeartRadio account online.  Sorta like pairing up a new NetFlix device.


Once that’s done you’ll want to ensure you’ve got some playlists favorited/created/whatevered so that the Fenix 5 Plus can find them. From there go ahead and crack into the music settings to choose which playlists to sync:


The way Garmin has designed music on all their devices is via service provider model.  This allows 3rd parties to relatively easily plug into said model.  For example, Spotify or Pandora could reasonably join the platform and it makes it largely transparent in terms of adding additional services.  You see this when you crack open music, as you’ll see service such as ‘My Music’ (the stuff you copied over via USB), or ‘iHeartRadio’ (self-explanatory), all seen as equals here.  Deezer will show up in the same place, as would other services.  Not to mention that Garmin recently opened up Connect IQ from a music standpoint as well.

In any case, when you first navigate to the music widget (just press up/down from the watch face), you’ll see the current album playing (if any), as well as controls around the edge, like a rotary phone. Handily, if you’re playing music from your phone already (as I am at this very second writing this), it’ll automatically default to showing album information and controls for the phone. A nice touch.


These controls are pretty easy to identify, and include the basics like skip/back/play/pause/volume/repeat and shuffle options, plus the all-important ‘Manage’ option, which is the little settings icon.  By tapping that icon you get into the music providers and headphones areas.

It’s here you can select which music to play, be it streaming services music or manually transferred music.  It’s pretty much as you’d expect, allowing you to choose anything from specific albums to playlists to artists. It’s easy to navigate, even when running along.

DSC_6667 DSC_6669 DSC_6668

So how does playback sound?

Perfectly fine.

But as always, that’s more dependent on your headphones (or Bluetooth audio device) than anything else.  Unless there’s some sort of dropout (which I haven’t seen here), then the audio quality is based largely on the devices your using.  The biggest issue for wearable music devices tends to be dropouts between the watch and headphones, based primarily on distance.  Most headphones have a ‘master’ communications side – either left or right. You can easily Google for which side is the master on your specific headphones.  Wearing the watch on this same side will almost always resolve any dropout issues.

Still, I haven’t had that, unlike a handful of dropouts that I saw on the Forerunner 645 Music.  Garmin says they’ve made some hardware design decisions that should help a bit there.  As is usually the case in connectivity drop type issues, even the tiniest of changes can have dramatic impacts (as Garmin found out in the opposite direction with the original Fenix 5 and ANT+ sensors).  Still, in this case, all seems well with the pile of headphones I’ve tested.

Of course, this section wouldn’t be complete without addressing what will invariably be commented on 23 times in the first day: Where’s Spotify?

As a huge user of Spotify myself (I’m listening to it right now on my phone, and have nearly 100 playlists in a reasonably OCD organized folder structure), I’m waiting for it as well.  But ultimately, this isn’t in Garmin’s hands. Just like it’s not in Fitbit’s hands. Both these companies deeply want Spotify on their watches (just as much as people like you and I do).  Instead, this is 100% in Spotify’s hands. They decide whether or not to work with companies like Garmin and Fitbit here.  I spent some time talking with them about it back this past spring, specifically while at Garmin. While they see the interest in supporting what is now the #2 smartwatch platform (behind Apple), I got the impression they were hesitant to dip their toe into developing an app for it due to concerns that it wouldn’t be ‘complex’ enough (meaning, adding features like favoriting/etc…).  And note when I say ‘developing’, Garmin/Fitbit/etc would of course be realistically the ones doing the actual developing of the app.

Hopefully though we’ll see a shift in things, but if you’re like me – the right people to bug here is the music provider of choice.  Telling Garmin/Fitbit/whomever is useful and provides ammunition, but not as much as just telling your streaming music provider directly.  I did my part, now do yours. :)

Garmin Pay (Payments):


Garmin first introduced payments last summer as part of the original Vivoactive 3. Since then it’s expanded to the Forerunner 645/645 Music, and the Vivoactive 3 Music.  Adding to that now is the Fenix 5 Plus series.  Garmin Pay is the branding that covers the contactless/NFC payments, just like there’s Apple Pay on Apple devices, Fitbit Pay on Fitbit devices, and Samsung Pay on Samsung devices.  All of which allow you to use your watch to simply tap a contactless payment reader and pay for goods.

In the case of a watch, this is most useful in perhaps running or cycling scenarios where you have ‘known good’ stores that accepts contactless payments. Perhaps a coffee shop or such.  Obviously, many people will still carry a credit card, but I’ve found it handy in some rare scenarios.

In any event, the first barrier to entry here is to actually have a Visa or Mastercard credit card from one of the supported banks.  Each of these ‘pay’ entities must negotiate with individual banks, not just credit card companies.  So you have to flip over the bank of your credit card and ensure that bank is on Garmin’s supported list.  In general it’s still slim pickings, but it is getting better.  For example, just last week they added Chase in the US, which is the largest issuing bank in the US – and a massive win for Garmin.  More importantly, it means I can finally use it on my credit cards (since most of them are with Chase).  Neither my Dutch or French credit cards are supported yet.

To add your card you’ll go into the Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app and simply follow the prompts. It only takes 60-90 seconds.

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As part of that, you’ll receive a confirmation text too, a simple validation code to enter in.  Additionally, as part of that, you’ll get a pin-code to enter in before you can use a credit card on the watch.  This passcode is good for 24 hours from entry, or until you’ve removed the watch from your wrist.  This is in line with Fitbit and Apple.

To pay for something, you’ll go ahead and hold the upper left button to access the quick menu system, and rotate the dial around to the wallet icon. After which it’ll prompt you for the pin code.

DSC_6671 DSC_6674

At this point you’ve then got a while to tap and pay for something. Quick and easy:


Once completed it’ll give you a quick confirmation on the screen (and also ideally on your card reader).

And that’s it!

Now, the one downside is that it doesn’t give you a receipt/transaction total on your phone like Apple Pay does.  So if the merchant doesn’t have a receipt system, that could be a problem for some.  But virtually every merchant offers a receipt, so it’s unlikely to be an issue for most.

Ultimately, as with before – this works well enough, assuming you have a card supported and a store/shop that also supports contactless payments.  In my travels I’ve found the adoption by stores to vary a lot.  In Australia for example, it’s virtually impossible to find a spot that doesn’t accept it. I went without credit card or cash for months using just contactless payments.  In France? You couldn’t go a day if you wanted to.  Same with the US.  Both certainly have stores that accept contactless payments, but hardly enough you could depend on entirely.

Of course, over time this technology will become completely commonplace in most countries/stores/devices, and thus, as a result, it will soon be as normal to pay with a watch as it is to pay with a credit card.  For now though, I see it more valuable for ‘known good’ establishments that allow you to skip carrying a wallet to grab a coffee at the end of a run.

GPS Accuracy:


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

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

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Fenix 5 Plus workouts).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

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.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

I’ve had quite a bit of variety of terrain within the time period Fenix 5 Plus testing.  This has included runs in: Paris, Amsterdam, Kansas, French Alps, Florida, US Virgin Islands, California, and plenty more.  Cities and countryside, mountains, trees and open-air. It’s been everywhere!

All of the workouts you see here I did with Galileo enabled, mostly because I was curious how well it would perform given it was new.

First up we’ll start with going big here! This is up in the French Alps in Chamonix for a beastly climb in dense trees against the side of a mountain.  In this test I had a Suunto 9 on one wrist (with BETA firmware), and a Fenix 5X Plus on another.  Then, attached to my backpack I had a few more watches. Those being a Fenix 5S Plus, a Fenix 5 Plus, a FR935, and a Suunto Spartan Ultra. Just a few, right?  Here’s the overall tracks:


It’s confusing, I know. Thus, we’ll zoom in a bit.

We’ll start with the ascent first, which is on the left side.  The blueish line wandering is the beta Suunto 9 – it had a really bad day here. No idea why.  Meanwhile the other tracks are very closely clustered.  The FR935 is a bit offset from the group by I’m guessing 3-5 meters, but not bad.  Overall, things are nice and crisp to begin.


Next, as we go up the mountain a bit you’ll see things remain very tightly clustered.  The FR935 does seem to struggle in a handful of places briefly, though not significantly.  If we look at the right-side of the track as I come back down, we see a tiny bit of separation on the Fenix 5X Plus specifically, but not the others. Not much, only 2-4 meters is my guess, but that green line just sneaks out the side.


Now this is the very top portion of the climb, with some really tight switchbacks.  No, you might mistake that blue line for a trail, that’s still the beta Suunto 9…uhh…trailblazing somewhere.  Because the below picture is kinda hard to discern, I’m going to zoom in a bunch to just that tight switchback section.


Well then, that’s a mess to look at.


So, I’m going to remove a few things, most notably everything but the Suunto Spartan Ultra (on my backpack), and the Fenix 5X Plus (on my wrist):


They’re very close. Note that due to snow and debris I wasn’t necessarily perfectly on the path.  I would say these are both fairly close though, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you precisely which one was most correct here.  Neither track is bad, and both make minor equal mistakes at varying times.

If you want to dig into the data sets yourself, this entire set is available on the DCR Analyzer here.  Overall I’d say the Fenix 5 Plus did fairly strong on this, especially on the descent, where it’s really super tightly locked to the trail.  This is generally what I saw throughout the Alps on my hikes – things were very very good from a GPS track standpoint, which was especially useful when I was navigating routes/trails with a map.

Oh, for fun, a brief look at altitude:


You can see the Suuntos and the Garmins each had their own sets of opinions about the starting altitude, and then things seemed to blend between the two of them towards the top.  In theory, the highest I went was 2075m according to the chairlift I walked up against that had the elevation written on the side of it.  The FR935 actually got the closest here at 2068m.  But given every other watch was below this a fair bit, I’d question whether the elevation marker at the top of the La Praz chairlift is correct.  Note there were three little ‘blips’ of elevation on some of the Garmin watches. What’s odd is that it did it at precisely the same second for a pile of them, especially at the end there, where I took a bunch of photos.  My bet is something I did when lining up all the watches to take photos may have been the cause there.

Next, we’ll look at another run, this time in Paris. This one is a simple two-looper of the gardens, which can be a surprisingly difficult track. It’s often up against the tall fences, and with reasonably high buildings across the street and some good tree cover.  For whatever the reason, this particular route seems to trip-up many a GPS watch.


Zooming in to the upper portion of the park, we see that the Fenix 5 Plus is the most correct in terms of exactly which side of the road I started on. It’s spot-on there.


The rest of the tracks in this portion of the loop from the Fenix 5 Plus look the best of the three.  The FR935 goes through a building at one point (actually, a couple buildings).  And the Suunto 9 goes through a fence briefly (not a horrible diversion, only a couple meters off).

Next, here’s the middle section of the park:


In this section the Fenix 5 Plus almost nails it perfectly, but makes one minor error I’ve highlighted in yellow, slightly overshooting a turn by a few meters.  It does correct itself properly however a few seconds later.  The (beta) Suunto 9 is the least correct when it goes through some trees across a few gardens.

Finally, the bottom portion of the gardens:


Above you can see how on that long skinny part sticking out the beta Suunto 9 cuts the corner entirely, while the FR935 and Fenix 5 Plus trace it cleanly.  However, it’s not until you zoom all the way in that you’ll see the Fenix 5 Plus is actually the most correct, staying precisely on the sidewalk around that tip before I crossed the street over/around.


Next, we’ll shift to another run. I decided to include this because it’s neither great nor horrible. Just kinda ‘blah’.  It was through neighborhoods without much tree cover (and certainly not dense tree cover).  And it was along a mostly perfectly straight street.  The high-level overview:


At a high-level it looks perfectly fine.  But let’s zoom in a bunch:


You’ll notice in that section the Fenix 5 Plus wavers a bit. The other units largely nail that road and the correct side.  But at one point it has me going through the gas station parking lot, which I did not do:


I included this run mostly to show you that it’s not always ‘holy crap’ perfect. Rather, it’s very good, but there are still the occasional quirks.  If you saw this run on Strava, it certainly wouldn’t draw your attention.  But it was worthwhile pointing out.

So overall on GPS accuracy? Pretty good. Here’s another hike in the Alps for those that want to dig into it. Looking at those tracks I’d say that at least once on that hike each watch had some minor diversions for a few seconds, but overall all watches were very close.

Note that I primarily tested Galileo accuracy, as opposed to plain GPS accuracy or GPS+GLONASS accuracy. Historically speaking some folks have had issues with GLONASS, despite in theory having more satellites and thus potentially better accuracy.  There were certain use cases/scenarios were GLONASS didn’t perform as well as even regular GPS.  In talking with Garmin about whether they felt a similar caveat might apply to Galileo, they said no, that they hadn’t seen the sort of caveats with Galileo that you have with GLONASS.  My testing seems to support that.

Still, I’m interested in seeing more data from more folks on this, over an even wider variety of terrain than I tested.  But for my purposes, I’m pretty happy with it.

Updated section – August 2018: Openwater swim accuracy. Since this review published I’ve had a chance to get in more openwater swims than I did pre-review.  And the results more or less suck.  The below video summarizes them.  While this video is from late June, I’ve consistently tried every few weeks with new firmware since then (now mid-August), and the results are equally as sucky for the Fenix 5 Plus. Others are seeing the same.  I’d say keep avoiding the Fenix 5 Plus if you’re needing half-way functional openwater swim tracks:

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions 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 for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:


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 steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides – and even running up and down a mountain.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the HRM-TRI or Wahoo TICKR X), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (including the Scosche Rhythm 24, and Scosche Rhythm+).  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.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

Note that while I’ve been using the Fenix 5 Plus since April, I’m mostly going to use recent data in this review – since that’s the firmware that it’s currently on and the production firmware that real world people are using.

First up is an interval run from two days ago, as we’ll just get right into the more complex workouts.  This is compared against a Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap and a Scosche Rhythm 24 optical armband sensor.


As you can see, in the first two minutes there’s some disagreement.  In this case, the Fenix 5 Plus is the most correct with the cleanest ramp of my HR.  The Scosche 24 is the least correct, appearing to have lost lock or something.  The TICKR-X lags along but catches up quickly.

After that things are pretty good for the Fenix 5 Plus for that steady-state portion that’s the first half of my run, including the build pieces.  So let’s zoom into the interval bits.


Above you can see there’s a bit of disagreement.  The blocky-nature of the TICKR-X is easy to throw out as incorrect in a few spots (seriously, I think this strap is dying on me as of late).  And the bits of spiky green from the Scosche 24 are also easy to identify as incorrect.  Surprisingly, the Fenix 5 Plus is most correct on the ramp and hold portions of each interval.  However, where you see a little bit of slowness is on the recovery of the 5th/6th/7th intervals, where it lags behind a bit:


It’s not a massive amount, a few seconds or so in most cases, but definitely worthwhile noting.  Overall though, for this particular workout it actually does the best of the three units.

Next, let’s do another interval run. Because interval runs are the bestest.  This time comparing against a Vivoactive 3 Music (optical HR), and a Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap.


Overall, the Fenix 5 Plus actually didn’t do too bad for the first main build portion and the four main intervals.  Those are actually pretty much spot-on, zero complaints there, even on the recovery bits.

But what about those four 30-second sprints at the end? Well…let’s talk about that:


So, here’s my breakdown of this section:

Purple line – Wahoo TICKR-X: This mostly lost the plot, with the exception of the 3rd interval’s recovery, which it got right.
Teal line – Vivoactive 3 Music: This was spot-on for #1/#3, but lagged recovery on #2/#4. Not horrible though
Red line – Fenix 5 Plus: This as good for #1/#4, so-so for #3, and crappy on recovery of #2. Thus a fairly mixed result for these short sections.

Thus overall I’d rank that interval run actually pretty good for the Fenix 5 Plus since it nailed the main 800m interval portions, though did struggle on a couple of the recovery bits for the 30-second sprints.  I think most of us could live with that.

I’ll dig up some steady-state runs here shortly, but I can tell ya that things are pretty clean there, which is what I usually see…like below, where it was easily the most correct of the four watches (as an aside however just looking at that file set, that run had a bizarre GPS track from the Fenix 5 Plus, that I hope was a bug on a previous firmware version, I’ve never seen a track quite like that).


Lastly, we’ll look at a ride. GPS accuracy on rides is rather boring (it’s been perfectly fine), but heart rate accuracy is more fun.  This ride was from yesterday, a simple one-hour ride with a bunch of stop/starts for lights/signs, and a few sprints.  Also, some grated bridge decks, which are always tricky for any HR sensor.  In this case, you’re seeing the Suunto 9 optical HR sensor on one wrist, the Fenix 5 Plus on another, and the Scosche 24 as well.  The Wahoo TICKR-X I had worn totally died about 10 seconds into the ride (like, red light stayed on died).


As you can see above, the units actually track fairly well, matching effort as well.  Right out of the gate the Suunto 9 loses the plot, but locks on pretty quickly.  After that point there’s only two specific spots of disagreement from the Fenix 5 Plus.  The first is here:


In this case, I had stopped pedaling and you can see the other two units properly decrease HR, whereas the Fenix 5 Plus doesn’t recognize it immediately.

And the next is a bit later in one big chunk and then a few short spikes/drops.


So it’s definitely not perfect.  But those of you that have been following my trials and tribulations with wrist-based optical HR sensors and cycling will note this is actually pretty darn good for a Garmin sensor on my wrist and cycling.  I was somewhat surprised to see this.

Which is probably the overall theme here – while Garmin hasn’t claimed any major improvements with the Fenix 5 Plus series and optical HR sensors, it seems like whatever minor improvements have been made have gone a long way.  You can see my interval sessions were largely pretty good, and while my ride wasn’t perfect, it was hardly throw-away either.  I suspect for most people, if they get results like I’ve been seeing, they’d mostly be happy with it.

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Fenix 5 Plus series into the product comparison tool, which allows you to compare it against any watches I’ve reviewed to date.  I added all three units under a single product ID, and noted the differences accordingly in the handful of data fields that differ. This helps keep things from getting all crazy.

For the purposes of the below table, I’ve compared it against the existing Fenix 5 and the Suunto 9.  But you can easily mix and match against any other products within the database here, by creating your own product comparison tables.  Note that in some cases nuanced features (like being able to calibrate altitude based on the map DEM data), doesn’t really fit well into product comparison tools designed to host hundreds of watches (when only a single watch has it).

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 28th, 2022 @ 9:59 am New Window
Price$699/699EUR$599$599 (non-baro is $499)
Product Announcement DateJune 17th, 2018Jan 4th, 2017June 5th, 2018
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJune 17th, 2018March 2017June 26th, 2018
GPS Recording FunctionalityYes (with Galileo too)YesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi (Sapphire only)USB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 32hrs in GPS-on, up to 85hrs in UltraTrac GPS (varies by model)Up to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 75hrs in UltraTrac GPSUp to 120 Hours
Recording Interval1S or Smart1S or SmartVariable
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYEsYEsNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYes
MusicGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Can control phone musicYesYesNo
Has music storage and playbackYesNoNo
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadioNoNo
PaymentsGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesNo
Group trackingYesYesNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Designed for cyclingYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYesNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceYesYesNo
Crash detectionNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Designed for runningYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)WITH RD POD, 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 sensorWith extra sensorWith extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationYEsYEsYes
Race PredictorYesYesNo
Recovery AdvisorYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesNo
Track Recognition ModeNo
SwimmingGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
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 featureNo (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No
Change pool sizeYEsYEsYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths14M/15Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesyes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesNo
TriathlonGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Designed for triathlonYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYEsYEsYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Auto Start/StopYesYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureYEsYEsNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYesYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesNo
NavigateGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYEsYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)YesYes (5X Only)No
Back to startYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationYesYes (5X Only)No
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)Fenix 5X Plus onlyNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)No
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)YesYesNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingYesYesNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYEsYEsYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNo
SoftwareGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS /Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Competitive CyclistLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Fenix 5 (5/5S/5X)Suunto 9 Baro
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Remember, you can mix and match and create your own product comparison tables here, for watches not seen above.



There’s zero question that Garmin is nailing their stride with the Fenix series.  The inclusion of music, contactless payments, and maps across all devices are precisely what most users have been asking for. Meanwhile, Garmin’s also answered power users who have been asking for potentially higher GPS accuracy with Galileo support, not to mention addressing the connectivity woes for ANT+ sensors on the original Fenix 5.  And then finally adding in Pulse Oximetry support and the ClimbPro bits, to differentiate themselves in a way not seen before.  There’s no question this feature is targeted directly at the high-altitude folks that historically would have gone Suunto.

Of course, no watch is perfect. And as one might expect, no matter how much I test this device (two months now) and no matter how many Fenix 5 Plus devices I have in my stable (six units), I simply won’t be able to find every situation or quirk out there. Still, I have seen a few during my testing in the beta period, some of which may have been resolved.  For example, I’ve seen some odd quirks with ClimbPro when I reach the top of all climbs (or start descending). And then there was the one reset I had three weeks ago losing PulseOx data.  And some slowness on openwater swimming distance readings on the unit itself.

Areas I haven’t seen issues though are GPS accuracy, or 3rd party sensor connectivity.  My testing with Galileo GPS enabled has produced incredible tracks, as many of you have unknowingly commented on within my Strava uploads the past month or so.  And music hasn’t been an issue either, that’s working well for me.  And perhaps most notable is that I’ve been wearing it 24×7 and it just works as it should from a daily watch standpoint.  Of course, I still wish I could answer incoming texts and such with quick replies, but in my case that’s primarily an Apple limitation of being on iOS.  Fitbit and others share the same 3rd party non-Apple Watch walls.

Of course – all of this skips the elephant in the room: Price. Starting at $699, it’s $150 more than the existing Fenix 5 series (base price), which is a huge jump in a time-frame when watches with music are getting cheaper (the Fitbit Versa at $199 with music, $229 with contactless payments).  Even Garmin’s own Vivoactive 3 Music was introduced at $299 – effectively the same price the Vivoactive 3 has been the majority of the last year.  I’m not sure this is the right trend.  I suppose it’s up to Garmin to find out.

In most ways, the Fenix 5 Plus series should likely be called the Fenix 6. It’s got far more features than a mere ‘Plus’ designator deserves, both in terms of hardware updates as well as software ones.  I feel like Garmin is likely doing itself a disservice here in underselling how much has changed.  But, that’s their problem, not mine.  From my standpoint, I’m more than happy with the watch and it might actually be enough to convert me from my trusty Forerunner 935.  We’ll see.

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

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

Here's a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Anthony T

    Hi! Beautifully thorough work as always, so thank you!
    The biggest draw for me are the maps and map related features. Specifically, trail maps here in the Northeastern US.
    Is there someplace I can visit online and see the same mapping detail that will be loaded on the 5plus? I’d like to know that the trail systems at my 7 or 8 favorite parks are included in the maps before I take the plunge!

  2. rabbit

    Hi Ray,

    a question about the climpPro feature:

    is there also a screen for the descent with upcoming descent values?

    • In my case, it just showed the ClimbPro feature the same way when I went back down the hill. It didn’t seem to show it in reverse. I asked Garmin whether that was a bug or by-design, but didn’t get clarity on that one.

  3. JeffF

    If the routing and maps are the same as the latest on the 1030 (FW5, 2018 maps) then they will be fundamentally broken and won’t route properly, see this post where I try out Garmin popularity routing on one of the most popular cycling roads in the world (Richmond Park in Surrey), and Garmin is the only routing engine that gets the incorrect route (both on Garmin Connect and on the 1030)

    link to forums.garmin.com

    Also this thread where a user tries automobile routing (includes video) and it shows the 1030 won’t stay on the roads when using the latest maps

    link to forums.garmin.com

    • Andrew

      Somewhere in the complexity of the interface you can switch off “avoidances”. The default is to avoid unpaved roads. Not sure if that helps as I haven’t tried it yet. It is difficult to know how good it as the popularity routing heat maps are not displayed. There are heat maps on Garmin Connect in the route builder but they are pretty immature and miles behind Suunto Movescount or even Strava. Circular route building on Garmin Connect is pretty broken too. Garmin are good at concealing the performance of some features (e.g. nav & GPS performance).

  4. David García

    Hi Ray.

    Do you know when will CleverTraining UK have availability of Sapphire versions?


  5. Marc R

    Garmin Pay

    I used this on my 5X+ 3-4 times now
    Works fine but

    1. Typing in the PIN is hokey, you are better off with a PIN in decreasing order like 3-2-1-0 cause scrolling is a pain

    2. As soon as I used the Garmin Pay, Apple Pay on my phone stopped working- I get “insufficient fare” now when I use Apple Pay- same credit card

    3. This morning after ApplePay rejected me – I brought up Garmin Pay – and it let me proceed and charge my train fare WITHOUT ASKING FOR A PIN – Big security fail

    • Marc R

      Ok – figured out part 3 – no PIN – Garmin Pay stays enabled for 24 hrs or until it can’t detect the HR or you disable HR – ie as late no as it thinks it’s still on you since you typed passcode

  6. Jipe

    I had a Fenix 5X and now just have a 5X+. Both are European versions.

    On the Garmin website, it is said that the both units have topo and cycling maps.

    On the Fenix 5X I had both, when going in maps selection menu, I could see both and select the one I want to use. There are actuality three maps for Europe TOPO East, TOPO West and Cycling).

    But on the 5X+, there are only two maps TOPO East and TOPO West, no cycling map even if the specs on the Garmin website say that there is a cycling map onboard.!

    For those who have a 5X+, is that also the case on your device ? Please specify if you have an European or US devices.

  7. Bill

    Fantastic review!
    Any hints from Garmin on when they will refresh the D2 Charlie with the new Fenix 5 Plus hardware?

  8. Just as a general FYI for folks, I finally got around to editing and uploading that mega-unboxing video of the three different editions (5S+/5+/5X+). All of which you can find here: link to youtube.com


    • Kevlar

      Hello Ray, thanks for all of your efforts, and continued responses to the never-ending questions. And here’s another on for you! I hope it hasn’t already been answered. I’ve read through all of the posts (I think) but I could have missed something.

      Anyway, in your conversations with Garmin, have they mentioned whether or not the GPS chip is all-new? Or if it’s the same one as is in the non-plus? If it’s different I’ll definitely give it a try, but if it’s the same, I’ll stick with my 5X.

      As info, I’m curious because I’m one of those people that is unhappy with the GPS reliability. I know it’s a YMMV situation, but for me, it’s pretty bad. I regularly walk to work through downtown Seattle, starting at roughly Denny and Aurora (you’re an ex-Seattleite, so I’m sure you know the area) and ending just south of where the Kingdome used to be. It’s a 3.2 mile walk, but my 5X will regularly show it as a 4.5, or some other, longer walk. The other day it didn’t get a lock until I had 1 mile to go, then, when I started the track function, it logged 2 miles. I was pretty impressed with my 8 minute walk times, but…

      Anyway, this isn’t intended as a bitch session about a version you aren’t reviewing here, just trying to dig up chipset info. Oh, if you’re interested, I did install the beta 9.71 firmware with Galileo support. It appeared to get a lock faster (still slow), but did nothing for the accuracy.


    • They seem to imply it’s all new in conversations, but they don’t disclose specifics of GPS chipsets. Usually we have to wait for the first GPS chipset update via firmware for someone to find out. I can’t imagine that’ll be long. Usually it happens within a month or so of a new release.

      Yeah, walking that route for pretty much any GPS will be tough (assuming you’re roughly going through the downtown core). You might as well just take the transit tunnel instead, probably has cleaner* signal in there. :)

      That said, it sounds like you’re starting before you’ve got lock. Which is definitely a deal-killer. It makes everything bad. It takes a bad situation and makes it worse, because it’s trying to find lock in a tough scenario. It’s far better to wait the minute or two extra in high buildings than to try and go and lock. Also, when in bad signal areas (like NYC), I usually wait another 15-20 seconds before starting after lock. Or until my pace screen shows ‘0:00’.

      *And by ‘cleaner’, I mean, none.

  9. RZ605

    Hey Ray, how robust is the sapphire glass? I have really good experience with the Polar V800 glass, it survived all accidental hits and impacts over the years and I wonder if the Garmin sapphire is as strong.

    • Tim Frielingsdorf

      I have a Fenix 3 Saphire and I am clumsy.
      While the bezel has some marks, the glass is like new.
      ON several occasion I hit the glass hard on metal objects and not the smallest scratch or nick.

    • Andrew

      I have not had any issues with standard and sapphire glass on fenix devices. I am not sure what the material is for the non-sapphire versions but it is incredibly tough and scratch resistant. The big issue for me is that the sapphire glass reflects more light reducing the contrast of the display. Certainly something to consider if you are 45+ yrs. The V800 is much clearer.

    • AlexM

      I have a big scratch on my Vivoactive 3 glass after about a month. There seem to be very different results on regular glass. Wonder if it is an inconsistency in manufacturing or just luck. I agree the sapphire is very tough. Are the issues with the reduced contrast indoors, outdoors, or both? I am 50+ so do have some issue with the small fonts on the VA3.

    • Andrew

      Check this out: link to youtube.com

      Here is a photo with sapphire left and plastic right which seems clearer to me.

  10. Stepan

    Hi Ray, thank you for your awesome review as always. Could you please elaborate on the real life battery life in activity using GPS and HR? I would love to buy the Fenix 5s but the estimated 11 hours of GPS battery life is not that much for an Ironman race (for many people at least). I read a review where they tested the GPS battery life of the Fenix 5 plus and they said it is actually longer than the Garmin claim and very close to regular Fenix 5. Could it be the same with 5S plus? Thank you very much! Stepan

  11. Michael

    Hey question regarding garmins wrist based heart rate monitors. Do these still work accurately if you turn the watch around your wrist so it’s on the palm side? I know that tightness and placement is important but not sure how accurate it would be for this method.

  12. Fernando

    Thanks for doing such a great review !
    Have you Swimm while listening to music from the watch? Which headphones?

  13. Andy

    I think reason it is not called Fenix 6 is simply and purely marketing based. Now they can still keep selling plain 5 that is still current model, and get bonus bucks from plus model. If they went with F6, F5 would instantly became obsolete model in eyes of many.

  14. Andy

    BTW plain old Fenix 5 got major updates as well last week with beta SW:

    – Many small fixes
    – Galileo support
    – Abnormal hearth rate alerts
    – Stryd running power now supported by Dozenrunfield

    Last one is big for me at least, because of stupid maximum of two iQ-apps running at any one time. Now I can have Dozenrunfield, Stryd power and battery usage tracker/logger/estimator all running at the same time!

    • Andrew

      This is merely a connect IQ data field not native Stryd support. Stryd already produce one. Unlike the Stryd Connect IQ app, it does not show your Stryd power zones. If you want power zones you have to use the app. When you use the app you are unable to use workouts or navigate routes. Its a bodge and does not get Garmin off the hook. I suspect their firmware is pretty crammed in (I remember a comment by DC on the Fenix 3) through implementing other features so they think an app can get them off the hook. Same is true for their Garmin Labs app for power.

  15. adik

    hello there – i’ll probably be the only one (first one?) raising this but my first run with the Fenix 5 plus showed incredibly inaccurate results. Much worse than the old 5, literally unacceptable. Setting was on GPS + Galilei, running by a river with forest around.

    will write to Garmin and send the map for exemplification. Interesting that during the run, the map showed the course properly (running a mapped path) but after the run, the results all over the place.

    anybody else with the same experience? thank you,


    • Andrew

      I have been disappointed with GPS accuracy on my new Fenix 5 plus. I think the problem with modern Garmin watches is the antenna design. We have sacrificed good GPS reception to achieve a round watch with nothing protruding in order to echo some forgotten era of mechanical chronometric excellence. Adding in an additional single frequency set can only do a little if anything.

      There is an option in navigation to snap to map routes. This is normal behaviour for car GPS as it generally assumes you are on the road. Might explain the apparent OK real time performance and subsequent poor recorded tracks if this setting is on.

      I also note that DC says Garmin store a simplified route with fewer data points and looking at tracks exported from Garmin Connect this is true. What I don’t know is if Garmin also approximates the GPS locations of the points they store so that they are grainy / snap to a grid / are quantised if you get my drift. This might explain why they look so bad close up. Saves space on the server.

      Garmin make it pretty hard to objectively compare performance. UltraTrac which some would assert is the equal of FusedTrack but without revealing the route. Popularity routing but without revealing a proper heat map. Cloud storage of approximated GPS routes. Its all snake oil.

      This is not the fault of the engineers who I think have done amazing things, particularly with the Connect IQ
      SDK. They will know how to produce a good antenna. This must stem from senior managers who have lost customer focus and impose irrational constraints. Ultimately this will be driven by shareholders. This is the stellar lifecycle of many companies, from start up enthusiasm and customer focus to middle aged complacency eventually leading to a general decline as shareholders suck the very life out of the enterprise. They are sucking hard now as they can see what is on the horizon from the up and coming Chinese stellar nursery.

      P.S. Did you set to Galileo (Galilei) or just any old Galilei? That might be the root of the problem! (-; Just kidding!

  16. Alexander Will

    How much heavier is the 5x plus than the 3 hr? If I’m used to the 3 hr no problem, would I notice a significant weight increase?

    • John C

      I’ve had the f3 HR since it first came out. I just got the f5Xplus. I did notice a very slight difference in weight at first when taking off the f3 and putting on the f5Xplus. I’ve been wearing it for a couple of days now and it doesn’t bother me. If your used to the f3HR it shouldn’t bother you, but if your used to smaller watches then maybe it might. I got mine from clevertraining.com. They have a 60 day satisfaction guarantee.

  17. Kenneth Woodruff

    Spotify has a community vote to have support added for Garmin running watches:

    link to community.spotify.com

  18. Sune

    Great review – as always.

    Regarding notifications: I can’t find the information anywhere, but will Fenix 5S / 5S Plus show entire text messages (also emojis) or only the first couple of words?

    I had Garmin products earlier but am using an Apple Watch S2 at the moment. However, would like to return to the Garmin Connect app as I also is looking into the Edge 130 for my bike.

  19. rabbit

    Just a simple test (no real outdoor conditions)

    put my 5x an 5x+ outside with free look to the sky, gps (only), temp sensor connected, tracking enabled and map page as main screen. Device was not moved during runtime.

    5x: 14 hrs 15 min, 6,07 km movement
    5x+: 29 hrs 40 min, 7,13 km movement

    Of course the battery of the 5x is older, but did that test in early owning times of my 5x and didn’t get much more runtime.

    link to connect.garmin.com

    link to connect.garmin.com

    • Stepan

      Thank you for your battery test! Could any 5S+ owner test how long can their watch run outside with GPS, please? Thank you very much!

    • Zoltan

      It was a precious test thanks for it.

      Btw having seen the total distance of the wobbling positions I always wonder why Garmin did not add the minimum distance as a threshold for GPS trackpoint recording. It is much better than either the smart recording or one sec recording to apply a minimum distance of 3-5 meters. Since in case of good GPS positioning the unit does not collect the unreal small noises as distances.

    • Andrew

      My thoughts entirely. I am sure some other watches do this as they do not seem to suffer the same inexorable increase in measured distance when stationary.

  20. Andrew

    So far pretty underwhelmed by my new Fenix 5 Plus.

    1. Battery life is abysmal. Charged to 100% yesterday. Did a couple of walks and one run. No music. Down to just 15% remaining this evening. This is not much better than an Android smart watch! For me this is an absolute deal breaker.

    2. GPS accuracy seems mediocre at best. I did not find that switching on Galileo improved matters. Although the recorded tracks seem just about acceptable the real time positioning is sketchy. Not sure how to explain that. When following a route a really important factor is that the displayed track is stable and in a consistent direction. The route with map was frequently in the wrong direction (up to 90 degrees out) and would jerkily move around as it refreshed the map. Of course there is a map and I can relate the map to the ground and with a bit of thought work out what is going on and where to go but frankly when running a trail I don’t want that complexity.

    3. The interface is rather chaotic. I have got used to the F3 despite it being a little irrational. This seems worse. Navigation is now via an App but once I select a route it does not give me a choice on activity type. Interestingly it seemed to default to a run and then randomly applied an unwanted workout that I had recently sent to the device. I now access my Stats via a widget. A rotating wheel menu is accessed via a long press on the light button. The impression is of an old building that over the years has had newer wings added to it in different architectural styles.

    4. It crashed on a couple of occasions attempting to stitch together a circular route. The circular routes do not seem to take into account true local heat maps. Not sure what data they are using as they don’t show these on a map. I ran along the river Severn today in Shrewsbury. It tried to take me through an industrial estate rather than along the popular running track through woodland and meadow near the river and canal.

    5. Music quality seems worse than on my Polar M600. It has an annoyingly excessive and distorting bass.

    On the bright side:

    I was happy with the wrist HR which I think works OK (the old sensor on my F3 HR was awful and locked onto my running cadence).

    The display is I think a little higher contrast and has a wider viewing angle than the old F3 plus the fonts are bolder and a more standard aspect ratio so clearer.

    I suppose there is no market in rationalising, streamlining and perfecting what Garmin have already achieved instead of adding in headline grabbing new features. I think my old 920XT is my favourite Garmin watch and despite being forever hopeful I seem to be invariably disappointed with their newer offerings. The marketing worked on me and I was suckered in. I have now initiated the return process to Cotswold Sports.

    I think I will go back to either my Suunto A3 Peak + Polar M430 or FR920XT + Polar M430.

    I will keep my fingers crossed that Polar get their finger out and get it right with a V800 successor! (if there is to be one).

    • Andrew

      Update re: 2 & 4 above.

      2. I can switch off the maps for a particular activity such as running. I will see if this improves the stability of the orientation of the displayed track when following a route and whether this also improves battery life.

      4. I note that you can switch off “avoidances” in the map settings for an activity such as avoiding unmade routes. I have disabled avoidances and will see if this improves round trip routing.

  21. John C

    I found that when doing a cardio workout, the heart rate sensor on my new fenix 5X plus is not very responsive. I compared it to my fenix 3HR and a heart rate strap. The heart barely moves. I’m seriously thinking about returning it. Anyone else experience this problem.

  22. Phellan

    Hi there Ray, as always your reviews are fantastic.
    My question is plain and simple and it is if the chipset for the plus version has been changed from the older non plus Fenix 5.

  23. Sebastian

    Hey I just would like to know, wheter they changed something on the barometer issue. I did buy a fenix 5 instead of 3 HR in hope of getting accurate barometric measurements. Unfortunately my barometer did not work twice on two fenix 5 models, so I gladly returned it via amazon. As I mostly use the watch for mountaineering, ski touring and trailrunning accurate height and weather information is crucial to me. When they did not change something I will likely change to something from Suunto. Lots of friends have devices from then and even when there is no super hipster direct instagram upload of your daily calorie intake the altimeter works properly even on the cheapest models.


  24. Dmitry

    DCR, if you’re talking about Spo2 (oxygen saturation) , I guess you’re, the description on what is normal and what is not is terribly inaccurate. Normal is above 95%. Anyone with spo2 below 80 will suffer brain damage.
    quote:”But ultimately, PulseOx gives you a specific value – such as 65% or 80% or 95%. if I’m at sea level and all is well, I could be at 98%. Whereas, if I’m at 10,000ft/3048m, then I could be at 85%. As I climb higher, that value decreases. But there is no specific hard and fast rule on what’s considered safe or not. It’s not as simple as saying 65% is cause for concern for everyone, because in some people it could be 75% or 80%. Whereas another person is 65%. Most climbing outfits will note it’s a blend of having a trained guide look at the numbers given alongside experience diagnosing someone. Still, it can be valuable.”

    • Andrew

      Hi Dmitry

      The normal Sp02 for humans breathing atmospheric air at sea level measured with a medical grade device is 94-98%. Whether anyone suffers long term ill effects (such as neurological damage) for a given level of hypoxia depends on the duration of hypoxia, genetics and the duration and level of acclimation to altitude. The time of useful consciousness for an unacclimated individual at 25,000 ft is less than 4 minutes. At the end of this the median Sp02 is around 60%. This exposure is used routinely in pilots to demonstrate hypoxia (USAF, RAF etc…). I am not aware of any recorded cases of acute neurological damage as a result of this. Sp02 is just one measure of hypoxia. Neurones really only care about pA02 which is not linearly related to Sp02. Climbers on Everest without oxygen typically have Sp02 levels in the 50s. Medical grade pulse oximeters are not licensed for use below 70% saturation are probably not reliable at these levels. Peripheral oximetry is less reliable than central oximetry. Sp02 does not predict the likelihood of Acute Mountain Sickness.

      This tech is merely a gimmick. At best it is useless. At worst it might provide false reassurance to a climber and increase the risk of death from AMS. One should respond to symptoms and descend, then descend, then descend again.

      I think Garmin are legally exposed by including this sensor. It is, however, a small population and they are a big company so can probably afford to take the hit. It is, after all, another marketing feature. Yay!

      link to nhs.uk

      link to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

    • Climbers are and have been using pulse ox sensors for years in high altitude climbing. This isn’t some mystery area here. Nor is it out of the norm. As I noted in the post, it’s primarily used as a backstop to monitor, not as the end all be all. But it is common.

      At sea level? I agree, I’m not seeing the value. But for this specific target, it is actually legit useful to track – certainly more useful than many other metrics. From a legal standpoint, they’re no different than any other FDA approved device (if they do so). Relatively simple really there.

    • Andrew

      Hi Ray.

      FDA approval will be for a device used within constraints and for a particular purpose. I suspect climbing will be outside of those. I agree climbers have used these devices but I am not aware of an evidence base for their use. Custom is not evidence of value. They are just freely and cheaply available. Sats are ill conditioned on the steep part of the oxygen dissociation curve and sensitive to conditions such as activity/stress during measurement. The best monitor of oxaemia is the brain. If you feel ok and act ok you are probably ok. If you don’t then numbers from a sats sensor can only provide a false sense of reassurance. Sats is not partial pressure of 02 in your circulation which is not partial pressure of 02 around a neurone in your brain. Of course I could have got it completely wrong through looking at things through the eyes of a sceptical old man. Do you have any links to peer reviewed publications demonstrating the value of pulse oximetry in climbing?

      All the best.


    • True on FDA testing, but only because the FDA test for such a device requires the person be seated in a chair (just about strapped in), and that such a chair be indoors, etc… I linked to all that in the review.

      But that doesn’t change the fact that climbers have been using these devices for years in other realms, and by and large the results seem to help guide folks. The problem with using the feel OK/act OK/etc is that the brain sucks at deciding what’s OK in high altitude situations. That’s generally why you have others with you to help, and the data is a good backstop of that. Cycling Tips actually did a pretty interesting bit on this a few months back cycling to Everest and talking about some of the challenges there, especially for those not familiar with attitude.

      As for research, this* links to a number of studies that talk to certain aspects of the picture. As I noted as well, the paper talks to using others in your group (primarily trained people) to validate that the data your seeing matches the signs your seeing. There are caveats, but it appears to concur there’s certainly value in such devices at high altitude but to essentially use them more for ranges than super precise measurements. Basically, akin to how people use step counters today – focus on the trending and not so much on whether it’s 71% or 73%.


    • Andrew

      Thanks for the link. I will take a look.

      I suppose having continually worn oximetry allows for the collection of data that would not have been possibly simply by taking readings while sitting resting. This would be new and uncharted territory. It would be interesting to relate saturation to power. I guess if your saturation drops too dramatically for a small metabolic effort you have a problem.

      All the best


  25. Jeff

    I currently use a fenix 5s and notice that pace jumps around pretty significantly while running. Seems accurate over the course of a mile, but not so along the way. I was wondering if you have noticed this and if it is any better on the fenix 5s plus. Thanks.

  26. Jipe

    Hi Ray,

    Can you tell us what maps are pre-loaded on the Fenix 5X plus ?

    Are there only the Topoactive maps (two for European models = Topoactive Europe Eats and Topoactive Europe West) or is there also a separated cycle specific map (a map that can be activated independently of the Topoactive maps) ?

  27. Hernando

    Ray, I’m currently wearing the Fenix 3 and I feel confortable with it, and thinking to switch to either the 5X Plus (same physical size than the 3, but 10gr heavier, and 2mm thicker) or the Titanium 5 Plus (which is considerably lighter). Both have the same retail price, so it is my understanding that the difference will only be the Pulse OX feature.

    I’m a marathon runner, and do some swimming. What would you recommend? Is the Pulse feature worth it? or should I go for a smaller size and less weight?

    Additional question, for the maps, I live in Mexico, but will buy the watch in the US, do you know if the maps cover Mexico, or will only be for US and Canada?

    • Jipe

      Another major difference between the 5 Plus and 5X Plus is the shorter battery performance.

      I also switched between a Fenix 3 (first version without integrated HR) and a Fenix 5X Plus and there is no real size difference.

      What is well different is the glass which is recessed on the Fenix 3 and not on the Fenix 5X Plus, so it was less exposed on the Fenix 3.

    • Andrew

      Pulse oximetry is not going to be of any value if you are running or swimming near sea level as it will be around 94-98% and unaffected by activity (assuming you have no underlying lung condition). Some mountaineers feel it is of value but the evidence base for this is shaky. I suppose it might be mildly interesting to see a small drop in sats when on an airliner (cabin alt of around 6000-8000 feet at altitude) though the shape of the oxygen-haemoglobin dissociation curve minimises this. It could be useful for pilots where hypoxia is an ever present threat if it were combined with a strong and continuing alert (vibration as a beep would not be heard) (cf storm alerts).

    • Tim Frielingsdorf

      I was wondering if the oximetry (if it makes it’s way into the D2 series) could be used to alert pilots for hypoxia.
      Could it also alert pilots that are at risk of CO2 poisoning?
      (The other thread in general aviaiton cockpit).

    • Andrew

      I found this paper:

      link to physiology.org

      There are tiny (2-4%) reductions with maximal activity so not really of value. Certainly of no use to distance runners. The numbers will not correlate with LTHR or rFTPw which are useful numbers for zonal training.

      It could be useful for synchronised swimmers – they get alarmingly low sats during activities while breath holding. A vibrating saturation alert could be useful. The question is does the sensor work when immersed?

    • Andrew

      Hi Tim

      Unfortunately not as the technology essentially “looks” at the pulsating colour difference between oxy-Hb and Hb (People look blue when hypoxic). Pulsation allows for the subtraction of tissue light absorption from the mix. Significantly increased CO2 levels would only produce a small effect indirectly through alterations in the affinity of O2 for Hb.

    • Farmer T

      Now that is some info I can work with!! I’m in the market for a 5x or 5s/x + and wanted to know if it is helping me to have the oximeter. I do running up to 1/2marathons, cycling (mostly ATB), a little swimming, SUP’ing and hiking. Would it be better to go for the 5x or the 5s+? Noting that I already know the oximeter is not a feature I need. Thanks!!

  28. John C

    Do you know if Garmin plans on putting the pulse ox info on the app? Right now you can only see it on the watch.

  29. Anthony T

    So I know that the sapphire is more scratch resistant, but I’m hearing that the non-sapphire glass actually gives you a brighter and more contrasty display. Can anyone confirm or deny?

    • AlexM

      I am curious about much more scratch resistant it is. I have sapphire glass on my phone, and it is amazing and pristine after 18 months and many drops. I have a 2 month old Vivoactive 3 with regular glass and I have already scratched it. So I guess I am a good candidate for Sapphire glass. I wonder if the non-sapphire glass with a screen protector is less bright and contrasty?
      It’s a big price jump for glass. But if someone has any info on the actual measurable difference in durability, I would love to hear it.

    • AlexM

      edit missing word. “…curious about HOW much more scratch resistant…”

    • Andrew Shardlow

      Hi Anthony. Sapphire is more reflective so makes the lowish contrast display harder to see. Unfortunately the non-sapphire comes with a shiny bezel which also seems to hinder. You could paint it? (-; I have an old F3 with dark bezel and plastic. Its good and there are no marks on the display after some pretty serious use. This plastic is tough! I have an F5+ but to get the black bezel I had to have sapphire which I now regret as my old F3 is much easier to see.

    • Anthony T

      Thanks Andrew! That’s super helpful.
      Much appreciated!

  30. Marios

    Ray, can you comment on the Pips performance of the CPU on the 3 Fenix 5{X,,S}+ ?

    There is an app / datafield that you can run to check:
    link to forums.garmin.com

    I wonder if Garmin is clocking the 5S lower than the 5 lower than the 5X according to the battery capacity.


  31. ic3cold

    Great review. I noticed in the menu video that you had the F5+ that was all black wth silver accents. It’s available for ore-order on many sites but with no real ETA. Did Garmin advise to you at all when that model would be available approx?

  32. JP

    Anybody looking at actually getting one of these should wait at least 6 months to see what kind of catastrophic defect has slipped through this time, especially at the insane prices Garmin is asking for them.

    • Marios

      I agree with @JP. Maybe charging $800 for the watch is the only way for Garmin to collect “insurance” on products that could contain catastrophic bugs and have to be replaced by warranty 2, 3 or 4 times per customer. Also at some point Garmin will run out of people who haven’t been burned by the endless cycle of bad firmware updates introducing so many bugs.

  33. nigel pearce

    would the map navigation run for say 8 hours and can i download my own routes using for example memory map or similar

  34. Mark Manner

    I’m liking it so far. I needed a replacement for my Fenix3HR that I gave my son, and the 5X+ is the same size, and the black band is more comfortable than the one on the 3HR. Everything I am using so far is working well (HR, PulseOx, power meter, elevation when biking, etc.). Haven’t done any hiking or climbing with it yet, but I will use it as a second device when I ride the Mt. Evans Hill Climb in a couple weeks (using my Edge 1030 as the primary). I am sure there will be some bugs, but I expect they will be corrected.

  35. Rick Valencia

    I have the 5X (stainless w/metal band $800) and the 5+ ($1100 titanium). After using apple watches for awhile gotta say these are way overpriced for their build quality and functionality. Both of my watches are brand new but so very glitchy. The new plus model added music and Garmin Pay. Music works if you don’t use any other function at the same time because it will skip and glitch and fast forward and is useless (great if you don’t exercise while listening). I haven’t gotten Garmin Pay to work at all after trying 3 credit cards on their “compatible” list. Yup $1900 well spent. Will try to get a refund and keep searching for a rugged fitness watch that actually works as advertised.

    • Alex M

      Hi. Have you contacted Garmin support? They are surprisingly helpful lately. Two in three seem to have correct information. (I have been working with them on my Vivoactive3 issues.)
      They can trouble shoot whether you have a software corruption or bad hardware. They will replace units that aren’t working properly. And they are actively correcting software bugs. Not always quickly.

  36. Andrew

    Still underwhelmed by my Fenix 5 plus. I have enabled Galileo on run and walk profiles but the GPS performance seems as mediocre as on the Fenix 3. Galileo has not sorted out the issues stemming from poor GPS antenna design in both units. My Polar M430 is miles better. It is around 1/5th the price! I feel cheated. The attached is are tracks from both units. The top is the Fenix 5 plus with Galileo, 1s sampling and recording. The bottom my M430. The track from the latter is spot on correctly showing the side of the road I walked on and points where I had to pull in to let cars by. The Garmin wanders across the road to the wrong side like a drunken man and does not show the track details. It is not possible to export the Garmin track as a gpx and compare in Google Earth. You are also unable to view the track in full screen and the level of zoom is limited. I suspect this is all to conceal the mediocre GPS performance. Some folk might say this is acceptable. At this price I do not think so!

    • To export a GPX track, on Garmin Connect simply click the little settings widget in upper right corner of activity.

      Also, Garmin Connect actually reduces the plot-rate for data points (which I think is stupid because it hurts them in situations like this – rather than helps them).

    • Andrew

      Thanks Ray. I didn’t even spot that little widget! (60 yr presbyope). Here are overlayed tracks on Google Earth. The Cyan is the F5+, the Magenta the M430. I don’t think plotting more data points would actually do Garmin any favours!

    • Andrew

      Another plot

    • Andrew

      And last one showing me walking on the right side of the road (in UK facing oncoming traffic as per our traffic laws) and a couple of places where I had to pull in and wait for an oncoming vehicle (narrow road). The M430 seems extraordinarily good and is well within the GPS standard. I would question whether the F5+ complies?

    • Have you tried with just GPS on? Not sure Galileo has enough satellites up to add benefit yet….

    • Andrew

      Hi Greg. Yes. It is off by default. I turned it on because of poor tracks. On my F3 I would have GPS + Glonas + 1s sampling + 1s recording as only then would the track be acceptable to me. I think DC recommends this. There is a hit on battery life but its OK on the F3. I thought the F5+ would have this sorted with Galileo. It seems no better than the F3 and you chomp through battery (I did a 50 minute walk and used around 25%). I can see an analogy between Garmin and VW. Garmin is able to meet performance (cf emission) targets individually but fails in typical use. Battery life with ultratrac. GPS performance (sort of) with GPS plus X + 1s. I think it is a bit of a con.

    • Yeah, I prefer GLONASS, but in some cases some folks just have more issues with GLONASS than not. When I’m seeing something odd in a certain area I usually try one of the other GPS modes.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Andrew you had different experience than DCR. DCR found that the new gps chipset in the Fenix 5 plus was better than the gps chipset in the Fenix 5 normal, maybe for Galileo or maybe for the chipset itself.
      About Galileo, another user, Dom, explained in another thread that we don’t have to wait massive improvement now in open sky because the Fenix 5 normal and Fenix 5 plus have a single frequency chipset, they just use the E1 frequency in Galileo and the L1 frequency in GPS. We should expect that accuracy of Galileo single frequency is about the same of GPS single frequency.
      Dom explained that we could see some improvement now in narrow view sky, for example between buildings, because of the greater number of satellites and the better geometry of satellites. If you have time, you could analyze the performance of the Fenix between building and see if there is an improvement using Galileo.
      Hopefully we will see a massive improvement in GNSS accuracy using dual frequency Galileo (frequency E1 and frequency E5a). Maybe the Fenix 6 will have a dual frequency chipset in 2019 or 2020, but this is up to Garmin. If a lot of users complain with Garmin about gps accuracy, there are good chances that Garmin will produce in the future a dual frequency sport watch (if it is practically possible, in another words if Garmin can produce a dual frequency antenna that fits the small dimension of the watches and if the power consumption becomes not higher).

    • Andrew

      Hi Mirko. The accuracy of bog standard single frequency GPS is in my opinion good enough for navigation if implemented well. The Ambits, FR205, FR910 and V800 demonstrate this nicely. The FR205 was my first GPS watch and I successfully navigated downloaded routes by following the Pirates o’ the Caribbean style arrow. For instant pace a foot pod is a more practical solution.

      It is interesting to read the blurb from the Garmin website link to buy.garmin.com where it says “…The Forerunner 205 sports a unique design that wraps the GPS antenna around part of the wrist for a better view of the sky, and its high sensitivity GPS receiver provides highly accurate speed and distance data, as well as improved tracking under trees and near tall buildings…”.

      Where has the antenna gone in new GPS watches? Dual frequency seems like overkill. Just get back to basics and do the simple things well.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Funny, from your words it seems that while every other component in Garmin watches improved, GPS accuracy actually decreased with the new models. Sometimes I think the same. I have an old Forerunner FR610 of 2011 and sometimes it seems to me that gps accuracy is better than the recent Forerunner FR35 of 2016.
      I think that the big difference is that the old FR610 doesn’t have an accelerometer inside and gps tracking relies only on gps data.
      In the FR35 I notice that the watch uses also accelerometer data for computing distance and tracking routes and not only gps data. This algorithm sometimes helps, but sometimes gives worse result than gps alone.
      Both the watch at the end are very similar, but sometimes both have big errors (due to building or mountain) in different moments. It would be nice if it would be possible to avoid these big errors. I notice this because for the most part of the run the watches give the same time for km, and beep at the end of the km about in the same moment, but in a few km the difference between the two watches becomes 10 or 15 seconds in a km. With gps watches I would be happy if big errors become less and less. Difference in time of 2 or 3 seconds every km is acceptable for me. I think that big errors depend on mountains, building, and sometimes perhaps gps watches have their bad day like we human being.

  37. Gustav

    Hi there,

    Thanks for a great review – as always!
    The Clever Training discount code for the UK site doesn’t seem to work, I’m not sure if there’s a typo in your text or if the codes hasn’t been activated yet.



    • Gary

      The other DCR discount code (DCR10BTF) works fine on the clever training UK site. But after waiting a week with no replies to my emails to their support team, I cancelled my order and went with a local retailer (LBS), for slightly more money, but fat better responsiveness and support should anything go wrong.

    • Hi Gary-

      Sorry to hear that. I checked with the CT UK folks (as I always do when folks say they have issues) and they noted that in your case they checked and it looks like they were on top of things pretty quickly (far less than a week) based on the dates they sent and when you e-mailed and ultimately cancelled the order.


  38. Andrew

    If anyone is having problems accessing the storage on the F5+ on a Mac (it doesn’t register as a removable device) I have found a workaround. If you set the USB to media transfer mode it seems to use an android file transfer protocol. If you install Android File Transfer app you will be able to access the drive and its directories (I found this a useful workaround for sideloading apps under development for testing).

    • Andrew

      P.S. I note that the Amazfit Stratos is also an Android Wear device under the hood but has OKish (several days) battery life, presumably because of its transflective display.

      You can also hack it and add Android Wear apps! link to youtube.com

      I wonder how much power is used by the OS and how much by the display in Android Wear devices? The M600 had great potential but was flawed by battery life, I presume in part because of Its LCD display. A modified Android Wear OS with reduced power consumption combined with a transflective display could provide a great base for a sports watch.

      I wonder what Polar are doing with the V800 successor? (-;

    • Robert

      keep your eyes on this site, no idea when they (polar) will add content, link to polarvantage.com

    • sams

      how do you eject the watch properly on mac?

  39. Andrew

    OK. I got fed up with the F5+ and used my F3 (with Stryd for power) and my Polar M430 for phased interval training. My intervals involve running up and down the same flat route which is ideal for looking at GPS consistency. I have overlaid the F3 track (GPS+Glonas, 1s, 1s) with that from the M430. I think the eye can pretty much do the stats on this. F3 in cyan, the 430 in magenta.

  40. Diego

    Complimenti per le recensioni

  41. John C

    Constant issues with pairing headphones. Have to un-pair and repair all the time to get them connected. Also get error messages trying to download music. Not to mention other bugs and GPS issues. $850, really Garmin. Give me a freakin break.

  42. Ben Smukler

    I have the 5X Plus and am having a problem with navigation. The last series (5X and Tactix Charlie) allowed the user to upload selected Open Street Maps via Garmin Map Manager and Garmin Map Install. You could plan routes in Basecamp and then send them to the device (or download device generated routes–tracks–back to Basecamp). Not only does the 5X Plus NOT appear as a “drive” or device in the Mac finder, but it is also not compatible (apparently) with Basecamp. Furthermore, although Map Install shows it successfully transmitted the OSM topo map to the watch, that map does not show up under any of the “Configure Maps” in the various activities. Has Garmin actually shut the new devices off from both Basecamp AND Open Street Maps? If so, that is a big loss in utility in terms of planning trips (in my case, hikes or dirt bike routes).

    • Andrew

      Hi Ben. See my post #603 for a work around. If you select USB mode MTP and install Android File Transfer (you may have to install Android Studio to get this) you will have access to the drive directories in the app. You can then paste a new gpx route into the directory garmin/newfiles and it will convert to ant and load into routes on the device.

    • Andrew

      P.S. you have to close Garmin Express to run AFT, I presume because they share the same Android protocol.

    • Ben Smukler

      Thanks Andrew. I use the Mac system, but I do already have the watch set to USB and MTP. I’ll call Garmin during the work week and see what they say.

    • Andrew

      Hi Ben. I think thats the issue. I use a Mac too. Garmin has gone Android. Macs don’t recognise Android devices as removable storage *natively* (which is odd as OSX and Android are Linux like) whereas I believe Windows does. You need to install the Android File Transfer app and launch it to gain access (after ensuring that Garmin Express in not running). I do not believe Garmin will be able to help you without a firmware rewrite!

      link to android.com

    • John C

      Did not work for me.

    • John C

      I found this on the Garmin support website under fenix 5X Plus, selecting “OTHER” for topic and MAC as the keyword.

      “My Mac Does Not Recognize fenix 5 Plus When Connected via USB”

      “Unlike previous generation fenix devices, the fenix 5S Plus, fenix 5 Plus and fenix 5X Plus use the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) mode when connecting to a computer. This USB mode allows for the transfer of media files to the watch. Mac operating systems (OS X, macOS Sierra, and macOS High Sierra) only provide limited native support for MTP devices, which means these watches will not be recognized as external drives. For additional assistance on transferring music and other audio content to your watch, please see related content.”

    • Andrew

      You have to make sure Garmin Express does not launch automatically when you connect the watch. Disable in its settings. If it has connected, even once, if you then close down Garmin Express, the USB connection is permanently denied to Android. You then have to unplug and plug back in. (and Garmin Express needs not to start again or you are back to square one). Good design hey?

    • Andrew

      Here is a screen shot.

  43. Andrew

    Just been for a forest hike with my F5+ and M430. F5+ 1s samp and rec, no Glonas or Galileo. 3.72 miles recorded on the M430. 3.89 on the F5+. 3.71 miles shown on identical route drawn in Garmin Connect. Although the GPS track is generally OKish on the F5+ (ignoring the fact that the data is seriously reduced before storing in Garmin Connect therefore jerky straight lines) there are occasional blips where it creates bizarre loops (at least three on this route) see examples below. This must have added distance to the route. Is anyone else seeing such odd behaviour?

    • Andrew

      another smaller loop

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      This is my personal opinion. I think that the algorithm of the Garmin watch introduce voluntarily these loops, when the gps data show a distance and the internal accelerometer gives another distance. When the algorithm believes that the distance of the accelerometer is more correct of the distance of the gps data (in other words when the algorithm thinks that the data of gps are not so correct) it modifies a little bit the track with a loop, so the distance becomes a little bigger. When you export the data in garmin correct or in other programs, the track seems a little weird but in this way the garmin watch gives the distance that it thinks is the more correct examining the gps data and the data of the internal accelerometer. This is just my opinion and maybe I’m wrong. I think this because my old Garmin FR610 didn’t have an accelerometer and it never gave me this loops in the track. My newer Garmin FR35 has an internal accelerometer and sometimes it gives me the loops in the tracks. When I do long runs I usually trust more for distance and pace the FR35 than the FR610, because usually the FR610 is quite accurate, but in some difficult points where gps reception is bad it gives big errors. The FR35 gives not so big errors and not because the gps receiver is better, but because when gps data have big errors the accelerometer can help recovering the correct distance. I repeat this is just my opinion and I may be wrong.

    • Andrew

      Whatever the reason, the GPS performance is simply not good enough. The M430 has only average GPS performance but seems much better than both my Fenix 5 plus and the older Fenix 3. I am after all not comparing it to my Suunto A3 peak or Polar V800. I expected so much more in a watch at this price point. I bought into the Galileo hype but have now got just another crappy Fenix GPS. I have just emailed Garmin support asking them to provide a solution, replace or refund. I await the response. It is surprising that my experience is so dissimilar to DC’s. It begs the question was his, or is mine, representative?

    • John C

      Did a test yesterday, GPS, GPS + Glonass, and GPS + Galileo. Got the best results from GPS + Galileo, however not that great or consistent. I am very disappointed in this watch (fenix 5X Plus). I also noticed the sleep tracking to be off. Also bluetooth connectivity issues, drops connection from phone. Once I turn off headphones, the only way to reconnect them is to remove and repair them. Then they crippled it on the Mac. Can’t believe how poorly it performs given the extremely high price.I bought mine from Clevertraining.com. They have a 60 day satisfaction guarantee. I may return it and go back to my fenix 3HR. Just sent a second email to Garmin. They seemed to either have ignored the first one I sent almost a week ago, or are inundated with complaints. I’m guessing they made sure the test watch they sent DCR was vetted for bugs before they sent it to him because consumers are not having the same experience. Very disappointed with Garmin. What are they thinking.

    • Eugene lee

      Andrew, that’s disappointing, but not surprising. I had many issues with my f5, so like many others, I went to the 935 and haven’t looked back. I’ve been waiting to see if the plus solves the gos issues, but based on the forums so far, it’s mixed at best. Have you tried the 935 compared to the others you mention above?

      And DC, have you officially moved onto the plus as your everyday watch vs the 935.

    • Andrew

      Here is a better view of the tracks from my M430 and F5+ on a recent hike. F5+ in magenta, M430 in cyan as usual. I did not realise Garmin pruned the data so much when exporting to KML. Better to export as GPS then import into Google Earth. The problem is not so much positional accuracy in the F5+ as positional inconsistency and loops introducing extra distance. To me this suggests an algorithmic problem or bug rather than a pure hardware issue. Mirko alluded to this. This device is not of merchantable quality as it stands. Not sure how DC got so badly burned with this one?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If you see the run of Ray in the French Alps in Chamonix (I attach a screenshot of DCRAnalyzer) you can see in some points some loops. The loops of the run of Ray are indeed small and not worth of notice (the map where I took the screenshot has a scale of 5 meter, as you can see in the ruler). In your screenshots, Andrew, I can’t see a ruler so I don’t know what is the scale of the map. But it seems to me that your loops are a lot bigger than the loops of Ray, so they seem to be big errors of GPS (the big errors that I wish that a dual frequency Galileo watch could avoid, me too from time to time suffer with my Garmin watches of big gps errors).
      It seems to me that till now in this comments 50% of users noticed an improvement of Fenix5 plus gnss tracking in comparison with Fenix 5 normal, 50% think that there are no improvement.

    • Andrew

      Hi Eugene
      Thanks for the advice but I am no longer interested in owning any new Garmin products. I certainly don’t want to boost their profits by buying a device because another of their devices doesn’t work properly. Bitten twice forever shy!
      Waiting for the V800 successor in the Fall.

    • I’ve moved onto the 5+ as my day to day watch (the 5+, not the 5S+ or 5X+).

      One minor thing to note is that when looking at my Chamonix files, be sure you’re looking at the notes on which devices were worn on the wrist versus the backpack (given I had a pile of them, they all couldn’t fit on my wrist). In those cases, Day 1 of the Chamonix stuff was Fenix 5X+ on my wrist, other units on backpack. Whereas Day 2 was Fenix 5X+ on wrist for way up, and I believe on way down it was 5S+ on wrist and rest on backpack (can dig up my notes).

      As Mirko noted though, whatever loops are on that one route are barely visible and not seen on most other routes

      Finally, I’d be super careful when looking at another than the original .FIT file (which is how I compare). Anything else might be funky/non-representative. Especially because Garmin sends the original .FIT file to 3rd party platforms for sync.

      Either way Andrew – not sure why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. :-/

    • Andrew

      How is this for scale. I switched on Glonas but it didn’t help. On this long run I passed a rock, went back, sat on it, got rid of a stone from my shoe, then carried on. The F5+ freaked out. This is not a GPS issue. This is algorithmic / a bug. They need to stop trying to do clever stuff with accelerometers as they clearly don’t have the expertise. I also wonder if the data points are correctly time stamped. Do they fully understand the characteristics of the GPS chipset they are currently using?

    • Because I haven’t quite followed this entire thing – have you tried contacting support about getting a unit swapped out? Perhaps there’s just something mechanically wrong with yours. Obviously simply sitting somewhere for a few seconds shouldn’t show that.

    • Ben Smukler

      Hi Ray, My comment is near the top of this chain. I did see that Garmin introduced an update to Map Install 2 days ago. I was finally able to install OSM on the 5X Plus (although, unlike 5X and Tactix Charlie, the OSM map does not show up on the list under Configure Maps-even though I think it is actually there). I’ve had similar issues as others have regarding music dropping out after 20-30 minutes (have to reconnect with the headphones; or even delete and re-pair with them) and sometimes erratic GPS maps–looks similar to what the InReach does, drawing straight lines at odd angles. The music thing and the GPS thing are minor, I think, and likely to improve, but the disabling of the Basecamp connection for Macs IS a big deal to me. That’s one way (in addition to My Google Maps and a file translator) I used to plan my routes. It’s even more frustrating to me because I briefly had the Tactix Charlie which DID allow me to upload routes from my Mac to the watch. I hope to speak with Garmin customer service when they open this Monday. By the way, my MacBook Pro does not let me click on the subscription or support DCR or Notify Me boxes I’m running the latest OS High Sierra).

    • Paul S.

      That doesn’t look like anything clever to do with accelerometers. That just looks like random walk. Since so far as I know Garmin doesn’t take any preventative measures with their watches (they do with the Edge), you’re just seeing GPS noise. I don’t know how wide that lane is (here in the US, lane width is typically 8 ft/ 2.5 m) but GPS error is typically 2 – 3 m. So it all looks reasonable. If they were doing something clever with accelerometers, it probably wouldn’t show that track.

      If you want to verify, take your watch outside, put it down somewhere, and start recording an activity. You’ll see a track similar to what you see when you stopped this time. There are lots of threads on the Garmin forums discussing this and seeing who got the greatest recorded distance when the watch was sitting still.

    • Paul S.

      Ben, are you using an ad blocker? Problems like that with Safari can be caused by third party software interfering with Safari. Turn your ad blocker off for this site.

    • Andrew

      Hi Ray.

      Yes thanks. Waiting for a response from Garmin.

      Someone suggested better to export as FIT because the GPX export is not as reliable. I did and overlaid on top of the GPX export from Connect IQ. See below. One is half the render width of the other. The tramline appearance of a narrow track on a broader track show that the data points are (to all intents and purposes) identical. The GPS performance (with Glonass) is unequivocally crap just as it was with just GPS or GPS+Galileo.

      I hope you are right and this is a problem with my device. Some of the other comments on here however suggest this is not an isolated problem.

      P.S. Apologies. Google Earth is buggy too hence the alpha value is clearly less than 1 despite me setting it to one for each track so it looks a little washed out.

    • Andrew

      P.P.S. Could the Google Van behind me have messed up the GPS signal? (-;

    • Andrew

      Maybe so but what a dumb algorithm. If so the resulting distance measured is so way out and not acceptable. The M430 doesn’t seem to suffer the same issue (even though it is not an exemplar of GPS excellence). It would be pretty easy to model a runner as a physical system, constrained by real world maximum acceleration and velocity (best sprinter) and apply a “force” to it related to the distance to the next measured GPS location. Add critical damping in to the model and you have a decent filter that would overcome the GPS random walk issue (as many of the random position variations are physically impossible for a human physical system). Perhaps that is what Polar do as although they do not seem to have significantly greater positional accuracy but their track is not as bonkers as Garmin’s and the distance measurement more reliable. Although Garmin has a larger number of programmers than other companies I do question how competent they are. Great software often results from small teams of highly committed and skilful programmers supported by IT savvy management.

    • Andrew

      P.S. reply to Paul S

    • David

      Hi Andrew,

      I am seeing quite the same behaviour. I was totally unacceptable during my first test when walking slowly with my daughter. I don’t have the map, I hated it so much I have deleted the activity :-). It was better on my second and third test when on boat or bike, but only when there is perfect view of the sky. Once there are buildings (not very tall), or bridge above, it goes crazy. But I have checked a couple of older rides with 5 (original) and 3 (no HR) it seems quite the same. Here are few examples I quickly did for you and others.


    • David

      There are some more issues I have experienced so far with 5plus, during my first few days of testing & playing with it:

      1) Battery life is far worse than 5 (original). Many people share the issue:
      link to forums.garmin.com

      2) Connection with phone drops from time to time, and you have to restart watch or phone (iOS) or both to reconnect.

      3) Notifications from phone (iOS) only sometime get to watch. But I may have seen the same issue with my Fenix 3 and 5 (original). Not sure – I stopped to care after a while.

      4) Various issues with Navigating on watch. For example it gets stuck on “Calculating…” sometime, and when you try to cancel by “Stop Navigation” and go to another app even without trying to navigate again, the “Calculating…” message is still there. Or it restarts itself when trying to calculate route.

      5) Garmin connect on iOS has ghost menu items to manage apps. It has “Activities & Apps”, “Activities, Apps & More” and “Appearance” all allowing to install some combination of Apps, Widgets, Data Fields and Watchfaces :-). Fenix 3 and 5 had more polished management screen.

      Honestly I think these are all issues which will be eventually resolved by software updates. If so, the only one thing makes this watch far worse than Fenix 3 or 5 is that the edges around screws are sharp(er). It means cuddling with the watch is not that pleasant, and drying it with towel after washing feels just bad :-D.

      Have a nice day!

    • Andrew

      Hi Ray

      My partner now tells me I had a temporal lobe seizure. Ran along the wall, jumped off and started break dancing before carrying on down the road. I have sent the watch back as I don’t want this to happen again. (-;

    • Andrew

      Ah, but does Garmin use accelerometers or a filtering algorithm to improve the track when moving to overcome their patented but poor exo antenna design? If not it is hard to explain the reduced size of the random walk when moving.

      “…So it all looks reasonable…”. I disagree that this is reasonable.

      I sat on one of the rocks visible at the lower left corner of the image. A standard car width in the UK is 1.8m. There is a van in the image, so probably around 2m in width. You can see the spread of values which vertically exceed 10m, so not meeting the minimum GPS standard when stationary. The conditions were not particularly challenging – a coastal run – flat.

      Such a gross random walk at low speed or when stationary wrecks the accuracy of the distance measurement. I believe it reveals the underlying poor GPS performance. GPS was an issue in the F3. I am amazed that Garmin have not responded to these criticisms. Quite the contrary. The F5+ is worse!

    • Andrew

      Response to Paul S.

    • Zoltan

      Hi Andrew,

      I read all of your posts and they confirmed my strategy. One can wear a member of Fenix family and use it, but he needs also a non-smart Garmin with better GPS accuracy and can merge the data afterwards.

    • Zoltan

      I forgot to add that or a non-Garmin watch, certainly.

      I am not familiar with Polar and Suunto watches, but I bet that even their products have lost some their GPS accuracy on the road of becoming smart.

    • Paul S.

      Andrew, you’re sitting with the watch where? Next to your body? You know that your body can attenuate GPS signals just like trees/leaves/buildings/etc. can? As for when you start moving again, you’ve removed the mean motion so you can look at the GPS residuals farther up the track? Or are you just basing your judgement on the fact that it “looks” straight? And there is no “minimum GPS standard”; 2-3 meters is about the best it gets with consumer GPS. It can be much worse.

      Garmin doesn’t seem to use the accelerometer at all in determining the track. (Or else why would the let it random walk when you’re stopped, which is pretty silly?) The only thing I know that they use it for is “dead reckoning” when the GPS signal is lost, like in a tunnel. (And I suspect that it’d be easy to fool it then.) Other that tunnels I’ve never seen any evidence that Garmin uses the accelerometer for anything other than things like “step counting”. If you’ve ever used a Garmin device that records accelerometer output, like the VIRBs, and looked at the record you’d see the reason why. There’s plenty of noise in the accelerometer signal.

    • Andrew

      Garmin Europe are going to look into this for me. I await their thoughts with interest.

      Hi Anthony

      I posted these on DC Rainmaker.

      link to dcrainmaker.com


      Looking at other posts on the same DC Rainmaker page I don’t think this is an isolated problem:


      All the best

      On 27 Jul 2018, at 12:58, product.support@garmin.com wrote:

      Dear Andrew,

      Please can you provide a photo and some activtity links so we can look into this issue for you.

      Once we have this i can look to resolve this issue for you

      Kind regards,


      Garmin Europe

    • Andrew

      To Paul S.

      You are looking at one post in isolation. Look at the others which show the same problem. My watch was worn on the left wrist. My body is always in the way of some part of the sky. To suggest that in all these cases it is because my body is in the way of a satellite (presumably where only three were initially visible) is I think absurd.

      You are wrong that there is not a standard. Domestic GPS should locate to within 10m to meet the minimum standard. link to gps.gov

      As to your last point. I agree it would be pretty silly to stop using accelerometer data when stationary. Unfortunately this appears to be the case. Perhaps there is an issue with the algorithm so that it ignores (Ax, Ay, Az) values if (0,0,0) which of course is daft. I have known programmers do more foolish things (just look at the A400M). Of course this is mere speculation.

      The bottom line is that the GPS performance is not good enough.

  44. Curt Myers

    Injured and doing a lot of pool running right now. Thought I could wear headphones and listen to some music. Once the watch goes underwater it cuts off. To be expected when I think about it, just thought I’d let other injured runners know!

  45. Marc Suarez

    Thanks for all your great reviews! One question on the Fenix 5 Plus. I see that it has bluetooth connectivity. Will the HR monitor on the watch communicate to my Wahoo Element Bolt bike unit so I can see the HR right on the Wahoo Bolt? My Mio Alpha 2 works that way, but I wasn’t sure if the communication on the Fenix Plus would work with the Wahoo Element Bolt in the same fashion.

  46. Fernando

    So you can’t swim and listen to music?

    • Andrew

      You might be able to if you were to swim one handed keeping the watch close (a few cm only) to the receiver on your waterproof BT earbuds (which I doubt exist for obvious reasons). You can get combined waterproof earbuds with an MP3 player for around £10 on Amazon.

    • Andrew

      Sorry, they have gone up. You could try eBay. link to amazon.co.uk

  47. Maurice

    I am looking for a watch to replace my old running watch (tomtom spark) and my garmin edge 1000.
    It must be my every day watch.
    Do you advice a 5 plus (not x) or a 5x (not plus).
    They both have navigation and maps.

    • Andrew

      Hi Maurice


      Keep your Edge and get an old Fenix 3 without optical HR (as it sucks) and without sapphire (as it sucks). It looks quite nice with a dark grey bezel and customisable faces as a dress watch. The Fenix 3 has mediocre GPS performance but accuracy is just about acceptable with Glonass. The 5 and 5 plus are are worse. The 5 has sensor connection issues. They both have poor GPS antenna design and are confused in anything other than ideal GPS reception conditions. Firmware updates are not going to sort these problems out! Have a look at the forums.

  48. Some1

    Is the a 5P+ (aka 935+)?

  49. Peter

    Hi can i use the heart rate from the fenix 5 plus to show on my garmin 1030. Can you guide me if this is possible?

    • Yup. You have two basic options:

      1) Broadcasting while not in an activity (don’t recommend)
      2) Broadcasting in an activity (recommend)

      I prefer the second because the first totally blocks your screen in that mode. Whereas the second just broadcasts while recording an activity (which you can then discard if you really want).

      To enable:

      1) Hold middle button to menu, then settings
      2) Sensors & Accessories
      3) Wrist Heart Rate
      4) Broadcast During Activity = On (lowest option)

      (Alternatively, you can do the other method in that same menu, which is to just ‘Broadcast heart rate’ right now…but as noted, that blocks the screen. There’s also faster ways to get to that option too.)

      Then on your Edge 1030, simply search for a new heart rate sensor. Remember to have started an activity though on your Fenix 5+ when you search for pairing, else it won’t show up yet.

      Finally, keep in mind that in general I don’t get great results from cycling with the Fenix 5+ (or any Garmin watch). I find it works best in steady-state riding (like triathlon training), but less awesome for sprints/city riding/etc….


  50. Ben Smukler

    Update regarding Mac users: The MTP issue has apparently been resolved, as far as route planning with Basecamp is concerned. Both Map Install and Basecamp have been updated. Basecamp (ver. 4.7.0) DOES now “see” the Fenix 5X Plus, and is able to send and receive data.

    • Andrew

      Hi Ben.

      Maybe so but you are then restricted to the archaic turd of a program Basecamp (and you have to pay for maps that are free anywhere else!). My workaround allows Mac users to upload their GPX files created using whatever they like. I tend to use Movescount because it has proper heatmaps (C.F. popularity routing which seems broken in the UK). Also anyone developing for Connect IQ on a map will need to have access to the removable storage to “sideload” apps for testing on a device. This unadvertised change by Garmin is quite rude to Mac users.

      I have sent my F5+ back as for me it has no significant advantage over my old F3. It feels good to have offloaded the thing.

      See #614 and #617.

  51. Thomas

    Battery hangs until reboot – just wanted to add to the others in terms of bug data points

  52. Luki

    For me, the most important is the accuracy of the GPS, which smartwatch will be more accurate fenix 5 plus or suunto 9?

  53. Steven

    I don’t care for titanium band is the extra money worth it for a titanium bezel only? Or is the titanium band far better than the other bands. I’m deciding if i want to upgrade from my 5x to the plus or not…

  54. Marc

    I have to say, after a few weeks of running with the 5X plus – I am completely nonplussed with the GPS performance

    I expect any GPS to have trouble in the canyons of the big city, but the 5X plus has the absolute worst track of any watch I’ve had in the last few years in downtown Chicago

    Beyond that, along the lakefront, which is basically open and flat, the last 2 runs have shown me skipping off into the lake

    It should be a simple programming exercise to avoid non humanly possible tracks based on speed or walking across open water

    Funny thing is, it was ok and slightly better than the 5X on the first run when I tested them head to head – before the first Garmin software update

    • Marc

      Also – I was GPS locked/ green at the start of my runs and using GOS +Glonass yesterday and GOS +Galileo prior to that

      Here’s a track from Sunday w GPS+ Galileo

    • Marc

      And another from yesterday w GPS +Glonass

    • Have you tried with *just* GPS Marc?

    • Marc

      not yet – I can try that but it’s kind of ridiculous – on the software side, using Galileo or Glonass in addition to GPS should only improve the track, never make it worse, the API usually has a confidence measure of each data point, if either Galileo or Glonass decreases accuracy – why is it there in the first place ?

  55. Jmgv

    Hello, I usually have ferropenic anemy. May I control my progress with the oxymeter of Fenix 5X plus? Thanks in advance

    • circe

      Oxygen saturation is not related to how much Hemoglobin you have. You can have 97% SpO2 of 14 g/dl or 97% of 8,0 g/dl Haemoglobin. It is the SATURATION of the hemoblobin you have. For the amount you have to perform a cell blood count. I’m sorry!

  56. Ken

    I’m a marathoner and train daily, 70-90 miles a week most weeks and I also like reviewing my runs in connect.

    DC – is there much value in upgrading from a 945M to a Fenix Plus 5? Other than casual bike rides with the kids, I’m using for running only. My 645M arrives from Garmin this week. Wondering if I should spend the extra to trade up.

    I don’t need maps, but Galileo accuracy sounds great and I’m wondering if the 645 screen might be too small for my 50 year old eyes vs my failing 630 with a perfect size screen for me.

    • Hi Ken – Personally, if you’re using just the FR645M for running, and are good with the physical aspects of it (appearance/weight/etc…), then I’d probably stick with it. Also, the FR645M is set to get Galileo as well via software.

    • Bunny

      Hi Ken,

      Just wanted to jump in here and say my training needs are similar to yours and I have the 645M and have been very happy with it.

    • Patrick

      Ken – The one downside to the 645M is the battery life, especially compared to something like the 935. I’m running 50-60 miles/week currently and am charging it every few days. I tend to put it on the charger when I shower just to keep it topped off.

    • Ken

      Thanks guys. I opted for the Fenix but appreciate the advice. I reviewed Ray’s reviews extensively and I think given my heavy use, the longer battery life of the Fenix plus will be a nice benefit. In addition, I plan to use with my Jabra 65T elite headphones. They are the best running headphones I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned many), but the receiver is on the right ear and I wear my watch on the left. Ray speaks to the improvements in the Fenix for Bluetooth connections, and in Garmin forums it looks like my Jabras do OK with the Fenix, but struggle with the 645M. Like many, I’m a little disappointed with the price premium for the Fenix and I suspect Garmin will need to address that in the medium term, but nothing I can do about that at the moment! In Canada they even charge a $150 premium for the sapphire version (which I’m going to select), as I’ve scratched up my 620 and 630 in the past and was always put off by the little nicks – but $150 for that is a pure profit grab. Ah well – no one ‘needs’ a Fenix, and as Ray alluded there are other very good choices out there at much fairer prices.

      Thanks again for the feedback, and Ray – keep up the awesome work!

  57. Jean

    I bought a Fenisx 5X Plus relying on Ray tests, but we must not have the same watch. GPS accurracy is horrible !!!, not usable even !! OX sensor is giving me results below 80%.

    I am trusting your reviews from a long time but I can’t understand how while using this watch for 2 months you didn’t detect all these issues related in all these posts…

    I should have been waiting more time to have reliable feedbacks from different users.

    Thanks Andrew for confirming me that I am not crazy. I wrote emails to Garmin, for them everything is ok…

    I spent 849 Euros for a piece of shit and I will not be able to be refunded…

    My trace with 5X plus, with Ambit 2 it is perfect.

    • When viewing satellite images of tracks, you should always view top-down, as viewing from an angle will skew things. Also – do you have an example of that same track with the Ambit2? That seems like quite a few high-rise buildings around it. May be worthwhile to try the various GPS modes (GPS-only, GPS+Glonass, GPS+Galileo)

      Finally – what retailer doesn’t let you return a watch within 30 days? The watch has only been announced 37 days, and given you just posted I presume you just got it (and didn’t wait 31 days to post).

  58. Jean

    Yes, here is my trace with Ambit 2 (bought in 2013).

    I bought my Fenix 5Xplus 10 days ago but when I called they said they will change it but I didin’t ask for being refunded. I can’t imagine the vendor will accept or maybe he will give me a coupon but not a refund. I will try.

    I don’t understandhow the y can release a so bad watch whereas the Fenix 5X looks pretty accurate.

    • That’s an impressive track for any GPS, about as good as I’ve ever seen on a track by any unit on the market, even ignoring all the buildings around it.

      As for a refund, I’m not aware of any retailer in any county in Europe or North America that won’t issue a refund under 30 days for pretty much any reason you want. Perhaps in some regions outside of that, but 30-day return policies are the norm.

    • jean

      My retailer is Lepape in Paris, when I brought my watch they refused to refund me. They gave me a coupon since the watch was not available and they told me 2 weeks ago that they will provide me a new one at the end of august. I bouhgt it on July 12nd, I sent it back 10 days later and I have no watch and they don’t want to refund me. :(

  59. Gerardo

    Heads up. Just purchased (25 July 2018) Fenix 5X Plus Titanium DLC with Titanium band for a little over $400 off regular price. Not sure what’s going on or if it’s an error. They also had deals for Fenix 5 plus and leather bands.

    • Tim Frielingsdorf

      Thanks, placed an order for teh D2 Delta PX, $437 off.
      Let’s hope Garmin honors teh orders

    • Tim Frielingsdorf

      Discount on the Leather band is only given when ordering with a watch.
      I placed the watch order and then went back to order a leather band, but it has no discount :-(
      If anyone orders a watch, please throw in a Black Perforated Leather band..

    • Gerardo

      Got an email from them. They cancelled my order. Tried to blame it on the fact that I placed my order while I was away for business meaning my order was made from a place other than my shipping address. Spoke to customer service and they were able to place the order again for me for the advertised price. I’m guessing it was a fluke since the prices are now back thru the roof and customer support wasn’t tracking any sale going on.

  60. Julian

    Has anyone encountered problems with Basecamp and the 5X Plus on a Mac that only has a USB-C port. Garmin Express works fine, but Basecamp rarely if ever recognises the watch, hence route planning impossible. Any solutions appreciated! Thanks

  61. Bop

    Hi DC,

    Got note we need to contact Spotify to get it on Garmin. You can vote on this by logging into Spotify. I just did and can recommend anyone to do so to get heard by Spotify.

    Second, do you know if Maestro will be connected to Garmin also for payments? Especially in Europe and in NL, where I live we use, opposite to US, mainly direct debit cards in stead of credit cards. Payning contactless by phone or ring is already possible here, so why not by watch?

    Thanks for your extensive reports. very helpful.

    Kind regards,

  62. Aleander Momberger

    Dear Ray & community,

    I have a fenix 5 plus and love it. However the Volume in music-playback is waaaaay too low for me. Is there any possibility to boost the maximum volume on the fenix?

    –> more information:
    I normalize all my mp3-files to 92dB using MP3Gain in order to avoid any clipping. I’ve been plagued by the eu-volume-limitation since my first iPod but I could change the firmware on the iPod to get normal volume.
    Now I’m using the Sony SBH54 Bluetooth headset & my android-phone with ‘poweramp’-player, where I can boost the volume. When running I use the Sony SBH54 with Koss porta Pros andy simply can’t enjoy the music as it is too silent. So:
    1. Is there a (eu-) volume limit on the european fenix 5 plus models?
    2. Is there any possibility to increase the maximum volume level on the fenix 5 plus?

    Thank you a lot!

    • I’m not aware of any way to boost anything extra.

      Though, I suspect the process of normalizing is more likely the culprit here – since I haven’t heard of anyone else having this issue. Sorry!

    • Aleander Momberger

      There ypu go, Ray:
      link to forums.garmin.com

      That nasty clipping issue had been a huge problem for me, because the majority of music is mastered to the limit, due to an idiotic “loudness-madness” started by Dr. Dre in the 90’s.
      The problem is the fact that volume-limits (eu-limitation) are no referenced to a normalized signal, but the overboosted music.. Therefore my files are clipping-free but simply not loud enough.
      Any chance to adress Garmin with hat issue? That would be super-awesome!

    • Andrew

      Does the F5+ recognise the ID3 metadata tag? If not, you may need to normalise a different way using resampling.

  63. kose

    In this link a show you a quick test about GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO with the beta 3.53 of Fenix 5 Plus, the purple one is the real track i walked, is this a normal deviation? i waited 30secs for GPS fix, clear sky and bordering the river almost all the time.

    link to google.com

    • Marc

      This is not acceptable in my opinion,
      I have had poor GPS accuracy with my 5X Plus

      none of my previous Garmin watches performed so poorly
      Each generation of watch should only improve on the last one

      I don’t know what the issue is, sketchy software, bad antenna, immature hardware – doesn’t matter, the performance of a watch at this price level should be better

    • Andrew

      I have seen worse (see my F5+ results in my earlier posts). You have several 6 story buildings in this location and I bet they are of steel reinforced concrete construction. Maybe the one with Taxis Alustiza blocked out a critical view of the sky creating the bigger error just before the 90 degree turn at the top middle of your image.

    • kose

      Yep, a 800 euro watch is tracing this way, not acceptable (worse than the Polar v800).

      Don’t know if it can be fixed via firmware or what…

    • Jan Nilsson

      I am so glad i read thru all posts and found out “i am not alone”!
      I’ve had 2 diffrent Fenix 5 Plus, first an Titanium model and an regular model, both with totally useless satellite reception.
      I’ve had several Garmin GPS watches thru the years, probably ~8 diffrent models and they worked completely satisfying, lastly an FR935 and i felt completely confident to buy an F5+, what could go wrong? Both DCR and several other reviewers had posted it worked flawless, so i cashed $1000 for one.
      When i found the satellite reception to be an joke i thought “it’s something wrong with my watch” so i sent all info to Swedish Garmin Support including link to my Garmin Connect, which settings i tested a.s.o. they answered with instructions on how to upgrade the firmware and reset to default settings, i gave up that route, i returned my watch and ordered another one, it was as useless as the first one, i made another try with Garmin Support, wrote an very comprehensive descriptions of my problems, including all things i had tried, and that this is the second watch i have trouble with, they answered with 1. Upgrade to latest firmware. 2. Reset the watch. I then got a bit upset and asked if they read what i had written, and that other watches have no problem to track 100% error free the same tracks i have run. Garmin support answered that it’s nothing wrong with my watch, “it’s how GPS work”. I immidiatelly returned my F5+ and i have decided to keep my FR935 “indefinitely”.

    • So did you update the firmware or not?

    • Jan Nilsson

      Of course, even tried latest beta firmware @ the time which was “fenix5Plus_356Beta”.
      Did nothing for the accuracy.
      Every time i contacted support they started with guide me how to update fw, how to change to GPS + Glonass, how to change data recording, despite i already have written that i have latest firmware, i tried latest beta, i tried GPS, GPS + Glonass and GPS + Galileo, i tried data recording Smart, i tried data recording every second a.s.o, and it gets a bit old to get those instructions when i already have written all settings i have tried and therefor must know how to change them.
      Worse GPS i have ever owned, tried an old FR210 that been put away in a drawer for several years and that works.
      I can’t for my life understand how it can loose satellites on top of a mountain with no trees in the way.
      A friend that been training with me use an Fenix 5 and it never lost satellites, mine lost them almost every kilometer.

  64. Hal Takahara

    In a TrainingPeaks blog post about pulse oximeter use cases: link to bit.ly, I’m particularly interested in Perfusion Index that indicates blood flow strength, and its variability implies hydration changes. With LVL not going anywhere, I hope Garmin eventually adds PI and PIV support.

  65. Notne F

    Hi DC you are amazing, thanks for all the great work you do.

    I am *this* close to buying the Fenix 5 Plus. Can you help out with two questions please?

    1) Can I build my own route at home on the interwebs, then up/download it to the Fenix 5 Plus?

    2) Does the Fenix 5 Plus then tell me “turn right here, turn left there”, with a voice from the watch itself (in other words, I’d hear it without having headphones on)?


    • 1) Yup

      2) Not from the watch itself, just chirps/beeps.

    • Notne

      Thanks, DCR!

      Chirps and beeps are actually fine, as long as there’s something to alert me to “stop running straight”!

      I am going to ask a similar question on the 645 forum. Rapidly narrowing my choices down to either the 645 or the 5S Plus … much rather have the 645 as I’m just a runner, and don’t want to listen to music when I run.

      Thank again, DCR!

  66. Max Rose-Collins

    When will your “Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (coming soon) – Use DCR Code %CLEVERTAINING% to get 10% off” link be active?

    • Just shot over a note to find out when. It sounded like there was some specific 5X+ exclusives in the UK (meaning, certain retailers had exclusives). I should have an answer within a few hours.

    • Max Rose-Collins

      Great! Thanks for the speedy response.

    • Max Rose-Collins


      Any news about the link?


    • Yeah, I checked again on Thursday – it’s still basically some variant of an exclusive with certain UK retailers (actually more specifically, certain UK types of retailers).

      In general I find Garmin UK/Europe does super wonky things with how they try and differentiate their products to various retailers. No other sports tech company does it this way. Essentially Garmin attempts to limit certain products to retailers that ‘fit a certain profile’. For example the higher end Chronos watches were only available to specialty watch makers (but not fitness companies).

      No company seems to go out of their way as much as Garmin (UK) to minimize product sales or make it challenging for their customers to buy their products. Shrug?

    • Max Rose-Collins

      Damn, how frustrating

    • Gareth Baines

      Hey, Is it likely that Clever Training will stock the 5x+? Just about to pull the trigger, but would hold on for the 10%.

    • Nothing soon. I checked, and they’re basically still waiting on Garmin here on this one. They’d have it listed tomorrow if they could, but Garmin is restricting the 5X+ in UK/EU markets to specific specialty retailers.

  67. alessio

    Hello congratulations for what you do … do the reviews TOP … I follow you recently and sorry if I translate but do not speak English … I wanted to ask you since 10 August is my birthday and I was intensioned to buy the garmin fenix 5x plus … I wanted to know from you if it’s worth buying it. if it is precise as many people say or if it always has problems and maybe it is better to wait for 6? greetings alessio

    • I wouldn’t expect a Fenix 6 anytime soon – given this is less than 45 days old right now. Typical Garmin Fenix announcement cycle is 14-18 months.

    • Nedim

      14-16 months from the announcement of F5 or 14-16 months from F5+?

      I hear what you are saying, but do not know where the start line is :)

  68. Chris R


    As much as I like the Ambit3, I’ve got to a point where there is a huge benefit to having on device mapping, and a work project looks to use Connect IQ for some interesting things.

    Does anyone know if I need to retire my Suunto HR straps? Or can they work with the Fenix 5+?

    • Chris R

      Following up my own post, the 5 Plus works great with the Suunto HR Strap.

      Picked it up and so far has exceeded all expectations.

      Allows me to stop the Apple Watch / Ambit 3 dance.

      Thanks for the great review Ray,

  69. I have been using my Fenix 5 Plus Spark Orange for over a week, battery life works as per Garmin’s chart and GPS/Glonass has me within 4 feet of where I actually ran on the road. I am a very happy Garmin Fenix daddy. I added Garmin’s tide chart APP for fishing and it also works perfect.

  70. Notne

    Heart Rate Variability

    Hi – Is anyone using the HRV feature on the Fenix 5S/5/5X Plus watches to tell them that they are overtrained and need to back off a bit (i.e., the HRV is flat)?

    Or is the presented data simply not displayed in a way to be able to make conclusions like that?

    (DCR, I saw you made a presentation recently about HRV!).