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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 June 22nd, 2021 @ 4:17 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
Can change yards to metersYesYesYes
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
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataYesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)YesYesNo
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesNo
NavigateGarmin 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+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNo
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+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)YesYesNo
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 use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

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 Polar H9/H10 and Wahoo TICKR X). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

This is the pinnacle of Garmin chest straps, and includes dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Swimming support, Running Dynamics, as well as back-fill of HR/Steps/Intensity Minutes/Calories if not wearing the watch in certain sports. Note: Not all watches support Running Dynamics/Swimming HR backfill, check your watch first!

While optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are less expensive than the HRM-PRO, but lack the Bluetooth connectivity and a few other features.

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.

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!

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 use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

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 Polar H9/H10 and Wahoo TICKR X). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

This is the pinnacle of Garmin chest straps, and includes dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Swimming support, Running Dynamics, as well as back-fill of HR/Steps/Intensity Minutes/Calories if not wearing the watch in certain sports. Note: Not all watches support Running Dynamics/Swimming HR backfill, check your watch first!

While optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are less expensive than the HRM-PRO, but lack the Bluetooth connectivity and a few other features.

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.

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

    How does the weight compare to the current Fenix 5?

    • It depends on the exact version you’ve got. With 15 versions, each is a bit different.

      But in general, I found that when comparing ‘like’ variants to the existing Fenix 5 series (i.e. base Fenix 5S to base Fenix 5s Plus), they were only about 1-1.5g heavier.

  2. Mark

    I would like to see a comparison between the 5x and 5 Plus.

    • Features or photos?

      Features I cover in the ‘What’s new’ section. Photos I should have up shortly (I did it as part of a larger unboxing video – but I don’t like the light on that video so I need to re-shoot parts of it this morning).

    • Ollie

      What about GPS accuracy comparisons? I would love to see the differences between the 5x and the 5x plus…

    • Ben

      would like to see a features comparison as well on the 5 plus vs 5x.


    I guess I’ll be the first of 45643187815 — what about the F935 Plus?

  4. Finally. Thank you!

  5. Matthew B.

    Ray, if you were to switch from the 935 as your daily, which edition would you switch to?

    • Definitely either the 5S Plus or 5 Plus. While I did wear the 5X for almost two weeks straight, it’s just too big a watch for me.

      I’ve been wearing the 5 Plus for the last week weeks straight (I was mix and match previously), and find it good size-wise. I’m using the Sapphire glass one seen in most of the photos with a silicone strap.

      While I think PulseOx is cool, for my day to day uses in a place as flat as Amsterdam, it just doesn’t matter.

    • Matthew B.

      Thanks for the info. Yea, the 5X just always seemed massive.

      Re: battery life – is actually less on the 5 Plus than the 5 OG?

      Thanks Ray.


    • Did the 5s feel noticeably heavier than the 935 when running or swimming, or really no difference IRL?

    • Eugene

      Ray, very curious to find out if you end up switching from the 935 to any of these pluses as your daily.

      I just got the 935 after going through two F5s and one F5S. The issue for me was instant pace which was bouncing around all over the place mid runs. I didn’t necessarily notice the extra weight I was lugging around on my wrist until I switched to the 935. The instant pace is better, and I really like the lighter weight a lot. If anything, I’d wait a few months to see what people say about the new pluses and any fixes Garmin has made to the gps to fix the instant pace (I know you didn’t have any issues, but the Garmin forums are littered with threads on it).

      The F5 felt like a great watch to wear to work, but I think it’s just a bit too heavy for workouts, which is why I think I’m going to stick with the 935 vs. trying the new pluses. That said, I’d switch to a 935 plus in a heartbeat to add the music.

    • John C

      I have the fenix 3HR. I also have sleep apnea and was wondering if the 5x plus would give readings for your oxygen levels while sleeping. That would be the only reason I would consider buying such an expensive upgrade.

    • John C.

      The f5X Plus dimensions are the same size as the f3 HR, just a little heavier by about 10grams. Do you find a noticeable difference between those two watches? I’m ready to order from CleverTraining.com but not sure whether to get the f5 Plus or f5X Plus.

    • To me I find all the X series a bit heavy for my liking (and a core reason why I didn’t use the Fenix 3/3HR all that much.

      But, I will say that I got used to the 5X+ for a number of weeks wearing it 24×7. Didn’t really bother me.

      For the last 3 weeks though, I’ve been constantly wearing the 5+ (no X/S) and it’s my preference. I’d say there’s a very strong change it’s going to replace my FR935 as my daily watch.

    • do you notice any difference in weight when running with the 5+ vs the 935 at all Ray?

    • I do, but over the last three weeks I’ve gotten used to it (I did 5+ with a touch of 5S+, then 5X+ for a while, and now 5+ for a while).

    • Andrew

      Battery life on my F5+ is pretty bad. It initially used about 10% per day purely in watch mode but I suppose I was vaguely interested in a new device and fiddled with it. All interest has now gone and left alone in watch mode it uses around 7% per day. I am charging up my old Ambit3 Peak ready for use – it uses around 3% per day. It works on an OW swim. I feel strangely excited at getting back to what I know (cue Embrace!). I am confused that progress in GPS watches by all manufacturers seems to have stalled (though not the prices).

    • Jarda

      10% per day is in the ballpark of expectations. Garmin claims up to 12 days in watch mode with OHR on. Bluetooth notifications will also eat some juice. Some people, including me, are seeing worse battery life on 5+ though. Easily 20%/day in watch mode, which is really bad.

      I would also claim that 5x+ might be more fair comparison to Ambit3 Peak. 5+ is a compromise – it now has pretty much the same feature as 5x+, in smaller package, hence it has to compromise on battery. Even more so for 5s+.

    • Chuck

      You would need a more frequent sampling of oxygen level for apnea detection as transitions may fall within 15 minutes.

    • Student of Life MD

      While I don’t have a F5+ (I have an F5) my experience has been that if you’re getting below-average battery life in your device, check to see which widgets, apps, and watch faces you have installed. Some of them can draw a lot of power due to all of the sensors they’re polling for their data.

      Just a thought…

    • Peter T.

      Have you decided to go with the 5 Plus as your daily watch, or are you still trying to decide between this one and the 935?

  6. Jeff

    Thanks for the review. Just 2 questions:
    Is it worth upgrading from a fenix 3HR to a 5Plus? and is the pulse ox useful for a non climbing dutch triathleet?

    • As the newly minted ‘Dutch non-climbing triathlete’ myself, I don’t see PulseOx as valuable to me. Whereas when I was in the Alps it was cool to watch (though I don’t know enough science-wise on SO2 myself to truly make use of the data…yet).

      I do think it’s worthwhile to upgrade from the 3HR to 5 Plus, since that’s a pretty significant leap, moreso than the numbering would let on, since the Fenix 3HR was really the same underlying hardware as the Fenix 3 from the year prior. But, I don’t think you need to rush out and buy the 5+ unless there’s a specific feature you want (like always I suppose).

    • Jeffrey

      Thanks for the reply! as a gadget freak i now have a reason to buy a new watch 🙂

    • Brian VP

      I have an original Fenix 3 (non-HR) which I like the battery life and form factor of. Unfortunately it looks like the Fenix 5Plus is a step down in a lot of categories.

      Weight: 86g (F5+) vs 82g (F3)
      GPS Battery Life: 8 hours (F5+) vs 16 hours (F3)
      Size (height): 15.8mm (F5+) vs 15.5mm (F3)

      Obviously you get heart rate, maps, etc. and all of those come cause battery life to take a hit. If weight was a high priority you could shell out some big bucks for the titanium version. I dunno, personally I’m someone who wants to charge their watch as infrequently as possible, and while the battery life of the 5X+ is amazing, to me it’s not worth the size and weight penalty. That leaves me with the 5+ which at this moment doesn’t seem quiiiiite worth the upgrade from my original Fenix.

    • Greg

      Well you’re mostly correct, except that the GPS battery life of the F5+ is actually 18 hours, it’s 8 hours with GPS + Music (something the F3 doesn’t do). As for the height, the F3 didn’t have Heart Rate, while the F5+ does, so the fact that it’s only 0.3mm taller is pretty good IMO.

    • Brian VP

      Thanks for pointing that out!

    • John C.

      The f5X Plus dimensions are the same size as the f3 HR, just a little heavier by about 10grams. Do you find a noticeable difference between those two watches? I’m ready to order from CleverTraining.com but not sure whether to get the f5 Plus or f5X Plus.

  7. Anton

    Hi Ray,
    Does it run GPS + GLONASS or + GALILEO or there is an option GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO?

  8. Andor

    Does it worth upgrading from basic fenix 5?
    I dont need music or payment feauture.

    • Probably not to be honest, unless you really want maps or ClimbPro.

    • JamesKPolk

      This is 100% me, too. Haven’t run with music in years. Had an Apple Watch and never once used mobile payments there, so don’t think I’d do so with Garmin. The only upgrade for me is maps… which I also don’t think I’d make use of. Hoping Garmin pulls off a miracle in the F6 by keeping this insane battery life (I’m averaging 12 days with 12-14 runs on my F5 Sapphire) and adding LTE. Until then, perfectly happy keeping the Fenix 5 Minus.

  9. Great review as always, the detail on the ClimbPro feature is very interesting and will be useful to hikers, can’t wait to see how this works for cycling being such a small screen.

    I can see the Fenix 5 Plus being the most popular model give the Fenix 5x Plus is aimed at the altitude type.

    But wow on those Vo2 Max stats!!!! bravo

  10. Thomas

    Lovely Ray – as always. Is the display really good enough for today’s standard? I’m dissapointed they didn’t go for 300×300 or something more high res. How does the Suunto compare in that aspect?

  11. hey! loved the “flippin’ awesome” comment, does that finally mean you are 100% European or is that an Americanism these days too 😉

    great stuff, some really nice images.

    1. galileo – is it single or dual band and was a new antennae design requried please? I guess it’s a somewhat moot question IF the GNSS tracks+instant pace are great but if there is still room for improvement that would be good to know.
    2. sensor connectivity – is this 100% sorted? was an antennae redesign required?

    • I’m not sure if I’m Euro or American on that one, we can call it Greenlandian. 🙂

      Galileo: My understanding is single-channel, but I’ll double-check. I had asked back in April when looking at the Edge 130 (which is single), but I can’t seem to find that e-mail at the moment. As part of the video I’m uploading I’ll show the instant pace pieces.

      Sensor: It required a hardware redesign, including a new antenna but that wasn’t the only piece changed hardware-wise on it from my understanding. That same secondary change also has benefits for the Bluetooth headset performance as well (compared to the FR645 Music).

    • Eli

      Isn’t all the radio hardware on one chip which is the primary reason Galileo was added? When they got a new chip for the rest of the functionality the better gps came with

    • Gunnar

      Since Garmin had to redesign hardware (for sensors) and change GPS antenna placement from the 5 series, wouldn’t it be right for Garmin to admit the fenix 5 doesn’t work as expected and they should consider a recall?

    • I’ve long argued they should do (or should have done) something there. I’m not sure what ‘something’ is though.

      I think in general, the whole concept of ‘recall’ is skewed, at least in terms of the tech industry. I struggle to think of any mainstream (or even non-mainstream) consumer tech device that’s been ‘recalled’, for non-safety reasons. CPSC covers safety recalls, and there’s plenty of examples there (Fitbit, SRAM, etc… and even Garmin did some safety-focused stuff with the old FR610).

      The challenge with a ‘recall’ in the traditional sense is that it takes away devices (in theory) from everyone who is working properly for them. Even if that’s 98% of people. In the case of the ANT+ (mostly 3rd party) connectivity issues, my bet is that by and large this impacts less than 1% of Fenix 5 owners (assuming a conservative 1 million F5 units sold). Probably half a percent.

      Again, I’m not sure what the right solution is, and I think there are other products where Garmin could/should get more creative (read: Vector 3) on finding a non-recall solution that makes consumers happy.

  12. Kris

    Maybe not the best place to ask this question, but I’m starting a new project, I’m training for a sprint Triathlon. And I want to buy a watch to track my progress, because I don’t think my bike computer is the best device for the job.

    What is a good entry level watch, which also tracks open water swimming? I don’t care about music, pay, etc.
    I do care about HR, GPS, maybe use it as a day to day watch. Fenix is a little above my budget.

    • E Amaro

      I’m in the same project, and really digging the 735xt. Definitely a stepping stone to the 935.

    • R_Tellis

      Forerunner 735XT if you’re on a budget.
      Forerunner 935 is more but still less than a Fenix 5

    • James

      Have you seen the Forerunner 935 (FR935)?

    • Eni

      How is a Forerunner 935 less then a Fenix 5? It is the very same, that’s why Ray came up with calling it the Fenix 5 p (for plastic).

      If you compare it with the Fenix 5 plus, then yes, it is “less”. But it still is a very, very capable watch.

    • Eugene

      I think the “more” refers to the cost, not features.

    • Dave Lusty

      There was a forum post a while ago highlighting a couple of features missing from the FR935 compared to the Fenix 5. Garmin replied that this was by design and not a lag in firmware so they aren’t completely identical. I can’t remember what features though and they certainly weren’t biggies.

    • Ben

      I used 735xt prior to current fenix 5x. was awesome watch, and lightweight!

  13. trirunner

    For me the biggest change is the new screen in the 5S Plus. Did not read in the review that they adopted the screen to the same size as the normal one. Looks a lot nicer without the huge bezel compare to the 5/5x plus.. But the price increase is too much..

  14. Jamie Land

    Great review, as always.
    How about the sizes? Are the watch bodies identical to the existing 5? I thought I read the 5s has a larger screen.

  15. Kyle

    People have been telling Garmin to implement the Elevation data from maps since day 1 on the 5x. The 5x is fully capable but yet they refuse to implement it via software. The 5x also has the GPS chip to use Galileo network yet refuses to turn it on.

    I wish the Garmin development community was like the windows / Android development community. There are so many features that can be activated on the 5x that the 5x Plus has that Garmin refuses to do so.

    • Yeah, I do agree on map-lock on the Fenix 5X being something they should implement.

      On Galileo, my uneducated guess here is that the 5X probably uses a slightly different chipset than the 5 Plus series. And my bet would be that the dev work to go back and code against that chipset would probably be more than they want to deal with. Just my guess.

    • Kyle

      Ray, Have you heard of any of the features coming to the original 5x? Specifically the map-lock and Climb pro?

    • I haven’t heard, but I’ll give asking a whirl!

    • Mike St Louis

      As someone who bought a 5X less than a week ago I am also wondering about this.

    • Kevlar

      Return it. Now. I’ve had mine for a couple of months, way too late to return. The GPS tracking is so abysmal as to be basically useless. Unfortunately it took me a while to figure that out. Huge regrets.

    • Mike St Louis

      Juh? It seems to be tracking well enough for me on my urban runs. Also it looks like the 5x is going to get GALILEO support as well.

      How has it been failing for you?

  16. Josh

    Are the Fenix 5 Plus watch dimensions the same as the 5? Thanks!

  17. BartMan

    Hi Ray

    Thanks for this review – very detailed as always! 🙂

    My questions:
    1. Besides the sensor connectivity issues (which plagued my Fenix 5) I had also very poor connectivity to phone via Bluetooth. I.e. having watch on left wrist and phone in right – it typically was causing loss of connectivity. Do you consider that BT connectivity have been improved?
    2. Is it possible to replace the base pre-loaded maps? I live in Europe but I consider buying watch while being in USA (it is cheaper option).

    • 1) Yes, in my meetings with them Garmin specifically noted that BT performance was improved (primarily with a focus on headphones). I haven’t had any droppage issues in terms of BLE connectivity for the 5 Plus itself. I do have general BT droppage issues on my phone with devices, but that seems to be something specific to my phone, as I’ll lose connectivity to other devices including the Suunto stuff at the same time. I feel like iOS goes in waves/versions on it, some releases are good, and some are a crapstory.

      2) Yup. In fact, I did exactly that for one of my Alps day hikes where I didn’t have the official maps on my USA units yet, so I loaded them via the usual method from OSM. Worked great.

  18. Toni T

    I’m genuinely surprised that Garmin did not bring touch screen to the device. Esp for maps in good conditions that would be great (although for harsh conditions it has to work with buttons too) for 5X. Map biggest complaint when using 5X maps.

  19. Luís Pinto

    Good review! You mention a new gps chipset for 5 plus. Which is? You know if Garmin 645, 935 and 5 will receive Galileo firmware support soon?

    • Garmin doesn’t specify GPS chipsets these days (usually), so we usually have to wait for someone to dig into a firmware update file to find out specifically.

      All of which require hardware updates to support Galileo, so definitely not the FR935/F5 (supposedly the 5X was capable though). The FR645 I think was just a tiny bit too early as far as I know.

    • Luís Pinto

      Thank you for your fast answer DC!

    • Jarda

      Well, now for a big surprise:

      Garmin just released beta firmware (9.53) for all of the original 5 series models (5S/5/5X) that adds Galileo support!

      So apparently this can be done. I assume 935 will get Galileo too, same hardware and all…

    • Eric Buxton

      According to beta version of latest 5X OS (9.53) Galileo support added with updated GPS version 2.2
      link to www8.garmin.com
      Someone else may have pointed this out but I didn’t want to scroll thru all comments.
      I have had no sensor issues and great GPS accuracy with my 5X.
      I also apologize for being incorrect with regard to sleep analysis-new features didn’t show up until 9.2

    • Chuck

      Galileo is supported on the 935 as of 9.60 on the watch and 2.20 on the GPS.

  20. Andrew

    I love new toys, but do you think we’re reaching the extreme ends of watch price and function?

    I feel as if Garmin et al are steering away from the market in terms of what it’s users need it to do. Correct me if im wrong, but wasn’t the most popular watch at Kona 2017 still a 920xt? I hope that triathlon watches that strictly do triathlon aren’t a thing of the past. My 920 isn’t going to hold on forever!

    • sal

      I don’t know but my suggestion is that they just started with music; so next step will probably will be an eSim for live-streaming, group-tracking without phones and phone-calls.

    • Yup, I agree it’s pricey. I have a bit of a rant on it in my summary video that’s uploading as we speak.

      I translated a portion of that rant into the summary section now (brain-farted on adding it late last night as I finished things up).

  21. Jeremy

    Is Garmin going to do anything for those of us who are plagued by the antenna issues in the original Fenix 5? (I probably already know the answer to this, but worth asking anyway.) A watch exchange program of sorts would be amazing, but I have little faith.

  22. AJ

    Great review as always Ray!

    Quick question: do the Sapphire SKUs come with an extra strap like the Fenix 5 did? What about the Titanium one – sure hope to get a silicone strap or two with it at that price point!

    • Nope, only one strap either way.

    • Jarda

      Not all of the Sapphire versions do. But according to Garmin site, the ones that don’t come with Silicone strap as a default (ie. they come with metal/suede/titanium/leather) have extra silicone strap included. Just check In the Box section on their site. It’s a bit confusing though, since they list models they don’t even sell (like, what is white with rose gold-tone metal band?).

  23. Andy

    I don’t think I have it in me to spend time transferring songs from my PC to my Garmin smart watch via a USB cable. Supporting Spotify offline playback would be the way to go in this day and age. I hope such functionality will come to Garmin sooner than later.

  24. Solomon

    Hey Ray,

    I’ve heard you talk about the notification handling before and am glad to hear that Garmin is following suit of other who handle this better and not just posting everything for the world to see. Do you know if this feature will be coming to the other Forerunner/Fenix watches that support notifications? I have a 935 and am not sure why it wouldn’t since it seems like a software update first and foremost, but i’m not a tech guy.


  25. Hey!

    1. So, is ClimbPro specifically attached to mapping, or does it just depend on what route you load into it? I can’t see why this couldn’t be implemented in watches without maps (either by Garmin or anyone else).
    2. How is Galileo in terms of battery life? More-less than GLONASS?
    3. Does it come with CIQ3 already baked in? I mean, for OSM maps and the stuff they lay on top of it it could be an interesting option.
    4. Do you know if the SO2 sensor is accessible through CIQ?

    • 1) It can numerate in one of two ways – A) A route includes the elevation data, and B) Based on the map data. In fact, in one of the photos above the ClimbPro was done over terrain where I didn’t have the mapping data there, just the elevation data from the route file.

      2) It’s supposed to be in the ballpark of GLONASS (so a slight hit).

      3) Yes, CIQ3 is already baked in.

      4) Hmm, good question, I’ll have to find out.

    • sabeard

      On the SO2 sensor, there is nothing noted in the documentations for CIQ3 beta1 or beta2. Does not mean that it is a feature that shows up in the next round of documentation for beta 3 or the final production release. Unless Ray gets word from Garmin first, we will have to wait for the next CIQ3 SDK release.

      I suspect, and hope, it will eventually be added to the available sensor list.

    • Eli

      CIQ3 is still in beta and the latest beta I see is beta 2 with no support for the plus series

  26. Dean

    Wotcha. I believe that “owners” within the PulseOx section should be “onus”.

    Great review.

  27. David

    Great review Ray. I’m sure I missed it somewhere but I didn’t see you mention the 5S now shares the identical size 1.2 inch screen with 240×240 resolution as the 5/5X unlike last generation where the 5S had a physically smaller screen with lower resolution. This really helps the look of the 5S IMHO as the screen fills out the watch nicely. To me the 5S (minus the lower battery life) is the best of the bunch in this group for women and men.

  28. Itai

    I feel stupid for buying the “regular” Fenix 5 not long ago.. ):

    • Patrick McInty

      No way. I bought the standard F5 two weeks ago at the $450 sale price knowing this was coming out. Unless you really need music, turn-by-turn directions (I find the navigation works just fine on the F5) and contactless payment, there’s no way to justify the intro price here. That ugly steel bezel version starts at $700 and the nicer slate colored one (with Saphire glass) that looks identical to the F5 is $800. That’s a HUGE increase in price.

    • BigMikeyP

      If it’s any consolation i bought mine 3 days ago.

      I don’t want payments, music or maps really though so i don’t think there’s anything to justify +£200.

    • Mike St Louis

      Heh. I just bought the 5X last friday it’s not even a week old. I knew that new models were coming but I didn’t expect it this soon. I thought about it and decided to take the plunge since the sale was ending the next day. I had been holding out for the lighter 945 but it never went on sale. I was a but put off by the 5X size and weight.

      I have no regrets at all. It was on sale for $100 off plus I had a $53 dividend from REI. I got used to the weight and have been very happy with it so far.

      I think the difference between the F5X and F5X+ is much less than the other models since it already had the maps. And with the higher price of the new 5X+ I am even more happy I bit the bullet.

    • Eric Buxton

      and it looks like Galileo support coming with next firmware update
      link to www8.garmin.com

    • Mike St Louis


    • Student of Life MD

      I’ve had my Fenix 5 Sapphire since it released. Even after quite a bit of abuse (combat deployments, skydives, dives, triathalons) it still gets great battery life (about 3-5% a day), has no scratches on the case, and after a simple hack and an after market strap – I wear it 24/7 with no issues. It’s a quality piece of kit that will last you a good many years, and it seems that Garmin is going to keep constantly updating it (at least for the next few months) with new features. Unless you don’t have a phone that offers android pay/apple pay or need an MP3 player (at the expense of battery life) – you’ll not regret your purchase.

  29. Mike C


    Just an FYI for the comparison chart.

    The Suunto 9 has optical heart rate sensor internally, too.

  30. Kose

    Hi Ray,

    1. Do you think the 5s plus could have better HR accuracy (than 5 or 5x) for running (or in general) due to the lower weight?? (so it moves less on the wrist). Any reason apart from battery for going with 5? (instead 5s)
    2. 5 plus and 5s plus have the same active/digital 1.2 inch screen size and 240px??
    3. Fenix 5 loses the HR signal with HRM Tri when I turn my back, could be this fixed due to hardware/antenna improvements?

    Apart of battery life i guess will go for 5s, 5 is too big for me and the “almost full screen” of 5s looks better.

    Thank you very much, another great/rigorous review ;), best regards,

    p.s.: The 5º image of unboxins is a 5 Plus not 5S plus
    ps.s.: Two Alps files has same (or almost same) colors for 5s and 5 so they cant be distinguished… 🙂

  31. Kai B

    Thanks for the review.

    You mention 10.5 GB available for music.
    For the 645 and VA 3 it’s 3.5.
    According to Garmin webshop all devices can store up to 500 songs.

    A mistake or are there any other limitations on this?

    • I haven’t tried dragging that much music to it yet, but two things to note:

      A) It simply has way more storage to begin with (music aside)
      B) When you plug into Garmin Express, you can see the available music as that much (seen in screenshots).

    • Kai B

      Thanks for your quick reply.

  32. Paul

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks for comprehensive review, as always. Question on battery life as I didn’t see it in the text. How is Fenix 5S Plus vs 5 Plus battery life? And then how would you compare these 2 vs 935?


  33. Hans Oosterhof

    I am waiting for a new Polar V900, poor Polar ?
    Do we really need all this?

    • Luís Pinto

      This 5 plus is very complete in features and material and with BLE and Ant+ problems solved. But very expensive. Further Garmin models will have support for Galileo for sure. If 645 have that should be the next watch that i would buy. If not i have to wait for new 245 or 745 more cheapers. I don’t need a battery to make ultras.

  34. ixxel

    Why does the fenix 5 plus hasn’t got the touchscreen as a feature

    • I suspect because most folks don’t really find it valuable for the downsides/tradeoffs that it brings, in this particular segment.

    • ToniT

      Panning maps in small screen is screaming for touch screen. Lessens the value of the maps feature in watch. That is my experience at least with 5X maps use.

      Maybe I wait for 6…

    • sander

      The only extra value of maps on a small screen is mentioned in the review. Planning with a small CPU and small screen is a time consuming experience :-).

  35. Theo

    Is the screen still as dull (in terms of contrast) as the Fenix 3?

    • pvfjr

      I assume you’re talking about indoor viewing. They are designed to be used without a backlight, and that is where they really shine. Take it outside in the sun, and they look fantastic compared to the competition with their battery-sapping backlights. It’s a matter of not being able to have your cake and eat it too. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I think outdoor usability and long battery life are paramount here.

  36. Daniele

    This seems like the perfect Fenix.
    Is the music storage the same the watch uses to store activities? Having the whole 10GB full of music will mean having less space to store activities?

  37. Stephan

    this climbPro is certainly a software functionallity ?

    should we expect that on the Fenix 5…

    in the past, you could have a fenix for serveral years, now, it’s a pity you already have to buy a new one to get software functionnality!

  38. I just…. can’t. $700 MSRP for this watch seems insane to me given competitive pricing from Coros, Polar, Suunto, and Apple. I mean, for that $700 I could damn near buy an Apple Watch 3 with cellular, a Stryd, and a Wahoo BOLT. I love my F3HR and was excited to see what came after the F5 but the thought of spending that much money for upgrades that are of marginal use to me doesn’t sit well. Oh well.

    • Brian Harris

      same. My F3 is getting old and feels slow. I’d love to replace it (it’s by far my favorite device for a day skiing). But…. probably won’t. My Apple Watch does almost enough in the sports area, but does SO much more in other areas (ie: I frankly love leaving my phone at home, knowing my wife can still call/txt and it’s all the same).


    If you use stryd, is it because you consider it a better powermeter than the one Garmin has? Do you think the next generation can have it already integrated into the clock?

    • I bought my Stryd pod before Garmin had a competitor, and I’ve been very well pleased with it so far. I don’t use it as much for training as I’d like to but that’s because my coach isn’t 100% onboard with run-power training… yet.

      There would be a lot of engineering challenges with putting a running power meter in the watch; I won’t say it’s impossible but I wouldn’t want to be in charge of it.

    • Fran

      link to journals.lww.com

      “Running power, calculated via the Stryd Power Meter, is not sufficiently accurate as a surrogate of metabolic demand, particularly in the elite population. However, in a recreational population, this training tool could be useful for feedback on several running dynamics known to influence running economy.”

      You are welcome

    • Dan G

      There is no relationship between power and VO2 (think 50m swim sprinters holding their breath). There’s a direct relationship between HR and VO2. Power meters exist to measure power, not VO2.

    • Hi Fran,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Please see our post here: link to blog.stryd.com

      Angus & the Stryd Team

  40. Neil Jones

    Do you think the restriction of pulse oximetry to just the 5X is a hardware size constraint, or just something they’ve done to maintain differentiation? I’d upgrade my 5 if this was a feature of the 5 plus, but the 5X is just too big for me.

    • Ray states above that the 5X Plus has an additional red LED for the pulse oximetry.

    • Neil Jones

      Yeah, I get that, my question was more along if there was anything actually preventing them having included that in the 5+ or 5S+, or whether it was just a marketing decision. I see Ray did answer that though, it seems to need the larger battery of the X.

  41. Henning

    There are some details I am missing
    What about WIFI is it gone or?
    It looks like 5S+ now have bigger screen, I really like to see at picture of this.


    • WiFi is on all units.

    • Henning

      Hi Ray
      thanks for the answer.
      I searched for it on the page later and found it in your comparison, but here you write only sapphire.
      Looks like a Copy Paste typo

    • Ray’s page shows “sapphire only” for WiFi but the Garmin site seems to indicate that WiFi is now on all models. That’s a shame since I work in a facility that doesn’t allow any WiFi devices. Looks like I’ll be sticking with my current f5 for quite a while.

  42. Juraj

    And why do you comparing Suunto 9 power save gps mode (Endurance or Ultra) with best GPS mode on new Garmin´s? Dont you think you are making fun of your readers? Just wondering..

    • Where does Ray say the Suunto 9 was in power save gps mode for this comparision??

    • Juraj

      He does not. But from the picture it is obvious since I have same tracks with Suunto 9, but with Power save gps mode (ultra mode).

    • It’s not. The tracks were on full 1-second performance recording on the Suunto 9. Suunto isn’t sure why the tracks went all wonky on that Alps hike, they’re looking into it. But even if you pretended it was on 60s or 120s mode, it wouldn’t look anywhere near as bad as that (since my moving speed uphill on a hike through brush would have the track actually looking close). Endurance/etc recording doesn’t cause a GPS track to cross miles away.

      If you have a Suunto 9, then you’d certainly know GPS tracks are hardly awesome right now. Yesterday’s firmware update may have helped a bit, but it’s unknown.

      Further, if you looked at my other tracks above with the Suunto 9 you’d easily see that they’re also at 1-second recording based on the update interval in the files themselves. Also, you’d see that even on that mountain hike there was some brief moments where it finally properly tracked at 1-second.

      But it’s alright, since you’re saying you’ve got Suunto 9 tracks to share, why don’t you share some comparison ones?

  43. Lee

    Thanks for the review – very very good – been waiting for the Charlie but this might steal the show

    Two hopefully very easy follow up questions:

    1) Are contour lines on by default now or do I still have to ‘faff’?

    2) Has the Processing Power been beefed up a little for these new features?

    Many thanks

  44. jelin

    Wondered if PulseOx measures the same thing as Moxy/Humon Hex do?

  45. Scott Hunter

    Is the strap on the 5S Plus as narrow and short as the one on the older 5S? That was the only Fenix I would consider suitable for running, but I found the strap not supportive enough.

    • Yes, identical narrowness straps. The Girl has moved her straps between them (did it this morning for her run in fact).

      Length though, hmm…I’ll have to check. She’s got non-plastic ones with us, so I don’t know if they differ between the silicon and the other materials.

  46. Mike Richie

    Great Review! (It kind of amazes me that nobody else has built a reputation by producing fully detailed, informed and unbiased reviews in other non-fitness realms using your model.) As amazing as this watch seems, just WOW on the price – a trend Garmin is pushing across it’s entire line. Although this watch provides an amazing amount of capabilities for the Tri/outdoors athlete, from a hardware standpoint it is actually less capable than the Apple Watch, which has Music, Apple Pay, Color Maps, 16 GB of memory with a much better screen and includes cellular connectivity. There is very little (big exception being Ant+, but even Garmin is now supporting BT) that couldn’t be done on the Apple Watch with better fitness software. Additionally, unlike Apple, which continues to support it’s older watches with OS updates, Garmin expects you to buy a new watch every 2 years to get their latest innovations.

    Ray, Garmin is doing well at the moment, but do you think these ever increasing prices for a watch with a 2 year lifetime are sustainable? (Their margins must be through the roof. )

  47. Rob

    Hi Ray,

    Especially with the maps is the Plus a faster device or simulair !?

  48. Peter Binderup

    I don’t listen to music while running and I don’t have a bank that supports the payment here in Denmark. So besides the mapping the plus is more or less the same as the regular 5 watch?

    I’m thinking about upgrading my Fenix 3HR to either a 5 or 5 Plus (both sapphire) -and the price difference is almost 300USD

    So if I don’t need Garmin Payment and the music storage, and the mapping (for me at least) is more a nice to have rather than a need to have – would I be missing out on anything if I went for the older model?

  49. ice

    Does the GALILEO support come with dual band support or single band? (the difference should be accuracy up to 30cm and half battery drain)

  50. MiKi

    Interesting that they didn’t bother to implement Gorilla glass like the current 645. It feels quite hard to justify the pricing and the sapphire models.

  51. Mike St Louis

    Wow! I just bought the Fenix 5X on friday. I figured with the $100 off sale plus my REI dividend it was a good deal. I knew the new models were imminent but decided to take the plunge anyway due to the savings.

    Since I just got it three days ago I could conceivable return it. But looking at what’s new I think I’m satisfied with my choice. I listen to podcasts when I run but the Garmin music solution wouldn’t work for me because I also listen to podcasts in the car and I like to pick up where I left off. So I just run with my phone in my pocket. I don’t see the contact less payments as something I’d use much either.

  52. Jean


    Thanks for this review ! Do you know if issues with HR sensors (plastic cracked) have been solved with this model (especially Fenix X plus) ? I didn’t purchase the Fenix 5 because of this issue. Is Garmin aware of this problem and solved it on this model ?


    • I don’t think I’ve heard of this being an issue before.

    • Greg

      I had this exact issue on 2 Fenix 3 HR’s and had to RMA both. It’s never happened since, and I actually believe I know what caused it on both our watches. I’m not going to test it however to find out.

    • Okrunner

      Mine has cracks but hasnt been an issue. What is your opinion on the cause of the cracks?

    • Greg

      I believe the cause of mine was my wife using a ZEISS Lens Cleaning Wipe to clean our watches. The alcohol inside them will crack plastic evidently. Since getting the replacements, I’ve never used that again (only WATER), and have had no issues with them since then.

    • Jean

      Here is a post of 7 pages on GArmin Forum about this problem :

      link to forums.garmin.com

      @GReg, can you please tell about what causes this cracks ?

      Is the HR still plastic on the Fenix 5 Plus or is it glass ?

    • Greg

      I’m pretty sure as I said above that it’s alcohol. If you read the other thread, even Garmin is asking about if you wear lotion, sunscreen, etc. and I bet that it’s to try and identify products that have alcohol in them. Plenty of google results certainly support this theory that Alcohol can chemically alter plastic and cause cracking/etc.

    • Marcelo Bezerra

      I had that issues on a Fenix 3, but my 5 is fine.
      I never used anything other than water to “clean” my watches.

    • Eli

      I had the crack problem on my 935 with the crack going straight through the area the image sensor was at causing HR to read very poorly. Was less then a year so Garmin replaced it. (Though in the process of the return they never asked how old the watch was, just wanted a pic of the crack)

      They never asked about sunscreen or any other product. (I use sun screen but no extra chemicals to clean the watch)

    • Kevin

      This is it, my 735xt.

      They blame it on my lotion/sunscreen.

  53. Chris

    Disappointed that the Fenix 5 Plus actually gets WORSE battery life than the Fenix 5….I’ll be skipping this generation

    • Greg

      More features, potentially faster CPU, all things requiring more battery. Especially when you’re putting all the features of the 5X now into the Plus series, minus the larger battery the 5X likely has. Does the 5X Plus have significantly less battery than the 5X? I didn’t look.

    • Chris

      No the 5X Plus gets better battery life than the 5X, but that’s the exception, and unfortunately I have no interest in a watch the size of the 5X. The Fenix 5 is rated for 24 hours on one 1 sec recording, while the Fenix 5 Plus is rated for 18 hours on one 1 sec recording, so by adding extra features they had to cut battery life by 25% and that’s not ok in my opinion. Battery life is one of the most important features of a GPS watch, particularly one specifically targeted for endurance athletes.

  54. Mark

    In Germany, Fidor Bank supports the “contactless” payment scheme, as do shops like Aldi and Lidl. You have to hold the device (wristwatch, or mobile) close enough to the terminal for them to make contact.

    One unrelated question, though. The Garmin Plus’ Bluetooth, is it v5?

    • Paul S.

      It varies widely here in the US. I pay for my groceries (Wegmans) using Apple Pay. The chain gas station/convenience store/fast food place I frequent, Sheetz, is hit or miss. The Sheetz I typically buy gas from has contactless payment at the pump so I usually use my Apple Watch (but one of my physical cards is equipped with contactless as well as a chip so I can just use that), but if I go inside to get something, then I have to use a chip card. Many Sheetz don’t have contactless at the pump; it all depends on how recently the pumps have been installed/upgraded. The dairy I go to (Meyers) is cash only, I can’t even use a credit card there. Places like Starbucks, Panera, etc. have online ordering where I prepay, so I usually don’t use Apple Pay there, although I could. New terminals almost always equipped with contactless, so as terminal get upgraded, more and more places accept contactless.

  55. JR

    Specs say the sapphire crystal on the plus models is “domed.” Can’t really see from the photos, but if it’s true, it would certainly add to the luxury watch aesthetic.

  56. Richard Owen

    Definitely worth the Fenix 6 name but not enough new features to justify an upgrade from the most recent model and I wouldn’t change it from my current device (935). When I listen to music or want to pay for things I almost always have my phone with me which does the job very nicely. Better ANT+ connectivity would be great as my Tacx Bushido drops signal all the time but I can get around this using my Edge.

    Also, HOW MUCH MONEY!?!?!

  57. ekutter

    With the elevation calibration, is it a one time thing or will it adjust along the way? By the time I’ve climbed 3000′ to a summit, it is often off by 300′ from when I started. It’d be nice if it continued to adjust along the way to deal with weather/BP/temp changes.

    • I could re-word a massive snippet of an e-mail from Garmin’s engineering team on how this works, but…with about 70 other questions to answer, I’m just going to copy and paste the details they sent me (because I think others will find it interesting too):


      We’ve improved the in-activity auto calibration for the altimeter by leveraging the DEM provided in our preloaded cartography data. Our new default is now “Continuous” mode (Settings > Sensors > Altimeter > Auto Cal. > During Activity). This continuous calibration setting enables an algorithm that uses both DEM and GPS elevation as references to offset any altimeter drift due to weather-related pressure changes during an activity. These improvements are provided in a long-term manner without sacrificing the main benefit of a separate altimeter sensor on the device: the ability to accurately track short-term elevation change and provide responsive elevation-related data during an activity (e.g. hill repeat workouts). Note: the At Start calibration also occurs when Continuous is enabled.

      We’ve added an altimeter calibration for watch mode as well (Settings > Sensors > Altimeter > Auto Cal. > Not During Activity). Assuming a user has enabled the use of location data on GCM, we will use the phone position along with the DEM provided in our preloaded cartography data to attempt a calibration each night during a user’s sleep window.

      An additional option was added under manual calibration that allows a user to utilize the unit’s built-in DEM to calibrate the altimeter.


    • Eli

      Is this coming to Edge bike computers? 520 plus and 1030 should have the same data available to do the calculations

    • Eli

      Also, any chance they could do this for other devices by using the pairing to the phone to get the data from the web

    • PeterF

      I would love to have this on my Edge 820 (doesn’t it have DEM?)

    • Brian Reiter

      Is auto calibration of the barometric altimeter during activity going to come to the f5x minus?

    • Renton

      Wow! This is a fantastic new! I haven’t find however all this features in user’s manual of Fenix 5 plus, can I confirm that Fenix 5 plus has all these features for altimeter calibration?

    • Renton

      Wow! This is a fantastic new! I haven’t find however all these features in Fenix 5 plus ‘s user’s manual, can you confirm that Fenix 5 plus has all these features for altimeter calibration?

    • Michael Coyne

      Will this come to Forerunner 935 as well? Would definitely be nice to deal with the massive drifting that can happen if I’m less active for a week or so, or don’t do any GPS stuff because I’m on the bike trainer a lot.

  58. Stephen Helgemo


  59. William Danielson

    Did you experience any conflicts with inbound txt vis other Garmin devices, e.g. the Garmin 1030?

    • Nope, my table buzzes like a bad adult toy shop everytime a text comes in – everything buzzes concurrently.

    • Mike Richie

      Ha Ha, I have the same problem – I wear a Garmin and Apple Watch and when I am riding have a 820. When a call comes in, you can add the ringing of the phone in my pocket. Someone should come up with a way to manage this better (if not in the adult industry).

  60. Jean-Pierre

    “not to mention addressing the connectivity woes for ANT+ sensors on the original Fenix 5.”

    Err, it’s clearly a major product defect.

    Will Garmin issue a recall or allow to exchange our defective Fenix 5 ?

    • Jeremy

      I asked a similar question. Garmin support have confirmed there will be NO recall, exchange, or upgrade program for us F5 owners with the ANT+ defect.

  61. Adrian S.

    Garmin has built a more than decent feature set into these watches, but honestly, the think that made me “wow!” the most was the price tag.

    If this is the trend, may my current Garmin last forever…

  62. Mark

    Any sign of a quick release kit for this? I’d rather use one device for everythign rather than having dedicated head unit.

  63. Sander

    How many way points can it handle? The 935 and 5 only 50.. and does it get a cycle mount like the 935?

  64. Eli

    Is climbpro coming to the edge series?

    Screen the same at the old Fenix? (resolution and color depth) Staying the same makes it much easier for ConnectIQ apps to work between devices.

    Is ram memory the same? Is the CPU faster? Both in terms of running the device itself which influences future upgradability and lag using the device but also how much memory/cpu connect iq apps will have access to.

    • Eli

      The 5S plus seems to use the same screen as the 5 plus and that seems to be the same as the old 5. Should make it a bit easier to get apps for the 5S plus now as from an app perspective the 5s and the 5 are the same now.

      Looks like the plus series outside of the 5X sacrifices ~20% battery life (5S and 5)

  65. Ro

    Hey Ray, thx for the review!
    This could be really my next watch (as soon as it gets to Europe…).
    For me (woman, small wrist) the fact that the 5S Plus got a slightly bigger screen and the same definition as the bigger brothers is the real deal.
    Could you confirm the size of the watch 5S plus stayed at 42 mm while the resolution got up to 240×240? Is it reasonable to look at the maps on the 5S plus? Thx again for all the info.

  66. Alessandro Rossi

    Hello Ray, thanks for the always super detailed review!

    One question: Is instant pace reliable this time? I’m getting mad at my Fenix5, it simply miss the spot, so I don’t have a reliable measure of my instant pace during runs.

    If they solved this it would suffice for me to immediately get one.

    • It seems to be. I’ve got a little video snippet I’ll stick somewhere showing it from Saturday’s run. No footpod or anything, just native instant pace during intervals.

      But then again, I seem to have pretty good luck with instant pace and most watches. Not sure why, I just do.

    • Raul

      Yeah and even more crucially LAP PACE and therefore LAP DISTANCE, the F5 is a total disaster in that respect with 1km LAPS never occurring at the same place from one run to the other and often with LARGE differences. Small variations are normal and you get them with the FR935 too but never to that extent.

  67. Mr T

    1. Thanks for the info.

    2. I can’t believe some who has a lot of tech doesn’t have the Airpods. I know Apple is derided in some tech communities but at $160 the cost isn’t out there and I’m sure you get questions :p

    My experience is as follows (on the 645). MyAirpods connected and worked really well no dropouts but there is a big caveat. Then I tried them outside and the GPS seemed to mess them up so they didn’t work.

    Also my $25 in-ear wireless headphones – think knock off Jabra worked very well for me. Almost no dropouts unless I look behind me. However with the latest software update the seem to have problems now.

    The new Fenix line is just way too much $$.

    • It’s not the cost…it’s the looks. 🙂

    • R_Tellis

      The reason your Air Pods work better indoors than outdoors isn’t because of GPS interference. When you are inside the BT signal can bounce off the walls keeping the signal more contained, but when outside the signal just goes off into the ether.

    • Mr. T

      Have seen some of the things you review?

      yes the looks aren’t great, but how is it any different than wearing a ridiculous go pro mount on a body.

    • Because I don’t walk around the subway or other spots with a GoPro mount on.

    • Mr. T

      I didn’t realize this blog turned into “what looks cool while walking around the subway” instead of sports technology.

      PS. I don’t wear mine around the subway but I use mine while running. A lot of running gear looks ridiculous. I wouldn’t wear “tights” on the subway, but that doesn’t mean that I would never buy them for running.

      SI suspect the real reason is that you couldn’t get a free pair out of Apple.

      Everybody can have their opinions but you are leaving a gap in your reviews. Just my thought, I’m sorry you don’t like criticism.

    • I don’t need a free pair of headphones from Apple. I’ve bought everything else I have from Apple. Apple has offered repeatedly to send over a pair to try.

      I just truly think they look stupid. I have no problems with others wearing them, but to me they look pretentious. Which I totally get having 5 head units and what-not on a bike is a different type of stupid.

      But more than that – I just don’t have a need for them. I’ve got a wide variety of headphones here that work fine, and I generally don’t like to run a ton with music anyway. Not to mention that I don’t generally like wireless headphones for non-sports aspects. I use a super old falling apart pair of Bose headphones from around 2004-2005 that I keep buying replacement earpads on Amazon for as I don’t want to buy the new BT ones.

      In this case, I don’t need to buy them to know the don’t work in this combo. Garmin has straight up said the combo of Garmin device + Airpods sucks. They don’t want it to suck, they’d much rather it work, because they know that’s a market to tap into it. I can only think of a single sports-tech scenario where a company knowingly said something didn’t work well (or ‘sucks’ to use the exact wording they used in my in-person conversation) and it did actually work fine. Companies usually do the opposite, they say everything works well and it doesn’t.

      I think you’re mistaking this is about criticism. Not really, it’s simply about me not wasting money on something I’ll never use just to reconfirm what a company and numerous others has said doesn’t work.

  68. morey

    Battery Life with new Pluses: Garmin has the 1-sec GPS battery life of the 5x+ listed as 32 hours- a great improvement over the current 5 and 5X watches. But if you look at the new F5+ (not 5X+) it has a 1-sec GPS life of 18 hrs, reduced from the F5 of 24hrs. and the new F5S+ 1sec GPS time is now down to a paltry 11 hours. I presume that’s because of the “maps” function. Does the battery last longer if you don’t use the maps? Can you say a few words about this? The 5S+ is only 4.5hrs with music! OK for a marathon, but not for an ultra!

    Processor Speed: Do the new “pluses” have improved/faster processing over the older 5/5S? One of the annoyances I have with my (now ancient) F3HR, is that it takes an annoying 4.2 seconds to get in and out of my selected (rather complex) downloaded watch face.

  69. Rob Montgomery

    I just can’t believe the price. Crazy. Is it just me or is the base $699 F5+ nowhere to be found but Garmin’s website? I don’t see it on Amazon, Clever Training, Best Buy, or REI. Is it a garmin.com exclusive?

    I was excited and planned on picking this up (instead of the Suunto 9), but these watches are not worth $800. $600 is about my limit. Thinking I might just stick with the Suunto 9 and 10% discount.

  70. David Lopez

    Garmin has too many bugs that they just dont care and never fix, I got the Fenix 5x very buggy. The watch is good, but is not 700 good.

  71. Greg

    I still have Fenix 3 HR’s on both my wrist and my wife’s wrist. I had been waiting for the Fenix 6 to release to finally upgrade as they are both really starting to show their age, but I guess we’re getting a “plus” series instead. I guess my question is do we think they’ll last for a year or will Garmin push the 6 early next year more inline with their normal release schedule? As I really do want to upgrade, but at the same time, both our devices are working fine, so no real reason to upgrade yet (though we did cheat, both watches developed the same issue and had to be RMA’d once already (the plastic covering the HR sensor developed cracking all over them), and they literally sent us brand new watches as replacements). I’m just wondering if it’s finally time or not?

  72. Scott

    My question is who is this for? It’s such a big combo of features. The overlap on the imaginary venn diagram of users requiring all these features in a single device, and at that price, must be miniscule.

  73. The Real Bob

    Missed opportunity Ray.

    “I’ll be sending them back to Garmin, then going out and getting my own elsewhere.”

    instead of elsewhere, say you are going to get them from Clevertraining!!

  74. inbruCHes

    Love this detailed review! Thank you so much for spending the time and making it accessible to all of us. Very much appreciated.

    My question is if it really makes sense to buy the Fenix Plus over the FR645 Music for most people. With the exception of perhaps hardcore climbers, the FR645 Music seems to be doing pretty much the same thing with the same look/design, but at half the weight and $400 less. I have been owning the Fenix 3 for a few years and looking to upgrade. Primarily use it to run, with the occasional SUP, and some ski/snowboard tracking.


    • Paul S.

      That’s pretty easy. The 645 doesn’t pair with cycling power meters. This does. The 645 doesn’t have maps. This (all of them now) does. My Epix is due for a replacement, and the 5X plus would be great, except for the price. I wouldn’t even consider a 645 for what I need a watch for (cross country skiing and as a emergency backup for my Edge 1000).

    • inbruCHes

      Thanks, Paul. That’s helpful. I don’t use a cycling power meter, so not an issue for me. With regards to maps, I’m still struggling to see how much practical use I’d get out of it. So overall, the FR may just be good enough.

    • Bunny

      I have the 645 music and I LOVE it! I have no need for the extra features on the 5 plus. I don’t use a cycling power meter. I’m mostly a runner, with other stuff thrown in occasionally.

  75. Shaun

    I still have a problem with wrist-based HR; small bony wrists, coupled with winter use where the watch is worn on top of multiple clothing layers. So I’ve stuck by my Fenix 3 with a Scosche+.

    The only way I could justify upgrading from here, is if Garmin had HUD glasses that supports all the data.

  76. Marcus

    Really want the Fenix 5 Plus, lovely watch

  77. Thanks for doing this review. It is all I needed to order the 5S Plus. In addition to songs, can the watch also play podcasts?

  78. rabbit

    Hi Ray,

    nice and really great review!

    A question about the climbpro feature and the elevation plot.

    For one route, both seems not to have the same scale? Is the climbpro feature zoomable?

    • I’m not aware of a way to zoom it, and unfortunately given I’m in Florida at the moment, I can’t create any route within a hundred miles or so that has a climb on it to see if there’s something I missed. :-/

      (Note: In the video you can see them back to back – one for ClimbPro, and one for Elevation Plot).

    • Paul S.

      I think the highest point in Florida might be the top of the Everest roller coaster in the Animal Kingdom at Disney World. Your kids are a little young for DW yet, though 🙂

    • We contemplated a Disney meander (actually drove past it Saturday crossing the state)…but given any costumed person is causing The Peanut to freak out right now screaming bloody murder…we decided against that. 🙂

    • Paul S.

      Yeah, given that, not a good idea, since it’s unavoidable to see costumed “cast members”.

      I’m generally against taking kids to places like that until they’re old enough to actually form long term memories and remember it when their older, but my daughter (now 17) first went when she was 4. My wife and daughter both love the place and go at least 4 times a year. (I can’t stand the place, and can only tolerate once a year, and maybe not even that now after the last trip in May.)

    • Yup, totally agree with you. If we’d have gone, it’d mostly just be for us. Those massive turkey leg drumsticks are awesome (less so though, the entry price).

    • Paul S.

      Oh, yeah. I even have the “Turkey Leg” T-shirt.

      There are a lot of great restaurants. I tell anyone who asks that my favorite ride is dinner and second favorite is lunch.

    • rabbit

      I just saw in a press release picture, that the climbpro feature is also displaying the descent. What are your experiences with that? I think also very useful.

      link to pocketnavigation.de

    • Correct, it did display for me going both directions. I really liked it on the descent, was super useful to know how much longer till I could have a beer.

  79. Brad Arrington

    Since many of Garmin’s activity-specific models (quatix, tactix, D2 Charlie/Bravo, Descent Mk1) are based on the fenix 5 platform, is it likely we’ll see new versions that include the upgrades to the fenix 5 plus platfomr? I’d be interested in a Descent Mk2 with the upgraded features.

    I have a number of hobbies that are targeted by a couple of the Garmin lines – general activity, boating, golf, diving. Garmin has some nice activity-specific wearables but I’m not going to buy multiple fenix variants. It would be great if they could combine the activity-specific features into fewer models, or at least allow to download the software as a feature upgrade. For example, the marine-specific functions of the quatix model to a fenix 5 plus, or to a Descent (because the Descent has more robust HW and QA testing for diving).

    • Dave Lusty

      I think on the variants of the 5 series it was only the D2 and Descent that actually had specific features. The Quatix I’m pretty sure was just a colour choice and had the sailing and tide apps installed by default, but these can be installed on a regular F5. Tactix was just a different material/coating, although might have also had a different backlight for night vision goggles too – all of the apps were ported to F5 as far as I recall.
      The D2 functions aren’t just an app, it also auto-starts activities based on altitude which makes it different enough to justify a different model existing.
      if you do boating golf and diving though the Descent will be the obvious choice since it can do all the sailing stuff of the Quatix and can support the golf app.

    • Petr

      Having the pulse oximetry hardware on Descent could be useful for freediving, eg. dry training, surface recovery intervals and so on…

  80. Peter

    Thanks for the great detailed review! Is pulse oximetry a different technology than the O2 measurements that moxy and bsx did- this seems like a strangly specific functunality whereas lactate threshold identification seemed like something every athlete would like to know?!

  81. Gregory S

    I think the best approach is to sit and wait for the Fenix 6 for existing 935/Fenix 5 users. At this stage, the next cycle is about 9-12 months away and I imagine those models will be thinner with better screens. Also, I hope garmin can get some additional bank card carriers (like amex) for the US as that list is weak. Lastly, maybe by then they will have actually partnered with Spotify or a a real music service to get some serious usage. Until then, its still a serious athlete watch with little carryover into the fitness tracker market – I realize they have cheaper units for this segment, but none of the cheaper watches look as nice as a fenix 5.

    Here’s to hoping they keep the 935 series or at least make a lighter weight fenix 6. Time to wait and see…

    • It’s clear Garmin is ‘struggling’ to maintain a Fenix release cycle at 12 months, they’re looking to be closer to 14-16 months by the way things sit right now. Perhaps I’ll be wrong, but every conversation I’ve had doesn’t show some magical Fenix 6 showing up early next year (and if they did, I think folks would rightly mutiny).

      Interestingly however, from a hardware standpoint they’ve been manufacturing production Fenix 5 Plus units for almost two months now, working to get the software finalized. That’s why there’s pretty strong inventory on Day 0 for shipping.

    • Greg

      If that’s the case, then they really shot themselves in the foot. I see this as incremental and not worth 150 as will many existing users. I think people want upgrades to screen size, colors, brightness, etc…before paying for Starbucks or playing geezer radio as no one uses it

    • Thomas

      Very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

  82. John

    Approximately 32 hours with GPS. Do you have a sense of how many hours for GPS + Music?

  83. jesper n

    Great review of a great watch! All except for the price. Those folks over i Olathe, must have really hit their head on something…

    A quick note on Galileo. You are aware it’s far from it’s full capability. Only 14 out of 30 birds flying. So probably not fair to judge it now….
    link to gsc-europa.eu

    Also, can we agree to call it a GNSS system. Not a GPS system. GPS is the brand/system name. Just like GLONASS and BeiDou. And GPS & Galileo of course…
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • I’m not super-sure the GSC site is current for the last four units that were sent up in December. My understanding from talking to some folks is that they are live now, but perhaps they were mistaken. It’s planned to have 26 launched by EOY.

    • Jesper N

      Wouldn’t surprise me either, if they are behind on updating….

      Side note: Does the Fenix have a status page for Galileo, like it has for GPS? If so, you should be able to see which sat’s are online.
      And if this status page does not exist, pls talk to Garmin about it. I should be there, considering Galileo is (going to be) superior to GPS and will be the people will rely on in the future… Or at least until GPS block IIIA get in the air….

    • Eli

      The almanac is constantly updated and doesn’t contain those satellites so pretty sure they are no in operational status:
      link to gsc-europa.eu
      (the almanac needs to be up to date or the whole system doesn’t work)

      I’ll be happy when chipsets support L2C on GPS. Should help with increasing accuracy so don’t really need to wait for L1C

  84. andrew

    I am very much skeptical of dcrainmaker reviews nowadays I must say. Fenix 5 and 5x were awesome watches as well according to the reviews, I bought them then gps is worst I ever had on a watch, OHR is 10 or 20 values off most of the time, the dropouts that made me sell the 5 with a big loss and buy a 5x so I can use Stryd. Still every one of these garmin devices are so good and accurate with graphs and everything, then somehow they aren’t when you buy them.

    I think the only things over my 5x would be… the native stryd support? do I understand correctly is that it, a native data field? the battery is always good, although I don’t really run ultras.
    The introduction words say it’s important feature but the description says the oxy thing is absolutely useless: on paper it should be good for something but then the values don’t really mean anything so it’s totally pointless to even check it. Looks like gps is not better than 935. Galileo is probably a joke, I never had much use for glonass, if anything results are worse, 2 out of 3 occasions when I had several hundred meter deviations on GPS was when I had glonass enabled.

    Same bs for $150 increase… they could use some competition, like an ambit3 with updated hardware and software to do everything exactly as it always did just with updated software features.

    • I’d point out that I listed the Stryd issues I had in my in-depth review from Day 1 on the original Fenix 5 In-Depth Review. It’s just that nobody apparently reads that section.

      Just like I suspect given your wording that you didn’t read the GLONASS vs Galileo aspects and pros/cons there.


    • Mark

      I bet Andrew is really fun at parties…

  85. Henrik Örtenvik

    As usual: awesome review!

    I got the hickups when I saw the price… other than that it seems like amazing watches.
    One thing I can’t get my head around. People actually buy Stryd and other foot pods to ad to the incredibly expensive watch… is it because the watch isn’t enough?

    • People do, mostly in trail-running scenarios these days where the terrain can sometimes be challenging for instant pace.

      While there is a fringe of people that are buying them for road running, it’s a fraction of a percent (my guess is something like 1/1000th of 1% or less). You figure 10-15 million or so GPS watches were sold in Q1, and of that there were probably only (generously) a thousand or two footpods sold.

      Personally, for road running I’m totally good with instant GPS pace on my watch. I don’t do enough trail running where I care specifically about instant pace to think about it.

    • Most people I see (myself included) get a footpod to run on Zwift. Then realise Stryd seems to work well outside for pace as well.

    • Yup, totally good use case as well.

    • Dan G

      Well there’s two Stryd users in my club of about 100 regular road runners, so that’s 2%, not “1/1000th of 1% or less”. We use it for the exact same reasons cyclists use power meters over HR and speedometers.

    • Well, the numbers are actually pretty clear here in terms of GPS watches shipped via IDC (about 15 million per quarter), and we know Stryd isn’t selling 300,000 units per quarter.

    • Henrik Örtenvik

      Ah, ok. I’ve never really cared for instant pace. You get to learn your inner pace and the notification each km has always been sufficient for me.

    • STRYD IQ has over 10,000 downloads on CIQ – that’sjust Garmin and excludes Apple and Suunto and app and Polar users…so maybe 10,000 actual users-who-use-it in total. definately more than one or two thousand.
      When I collpased intoa chair at the end of IMUK last year both people sitting next to me had STRYD.
      then again none of my running friends has STRYD.

  86. Leo

    The 5S plus black with silver band is showing up in the en-US store so it doesn’t seem to be European exclusive. Now to decide whether I can live with the extra thickness over the Vivoactive 3…

  87. Robin

    Is it wrong that I want one, despite the fact I don’t listen to music while I work out, my bank doesn’t support Garmin Pay and it doesn’t have a tri quick release kit?

  88. Mike St Louis

    Hi Ray,

    Besides Climbpro, is there any other difference between the 5x and 5x Plus in terms of the mapping?

  89. Kate

    Are the screens brighter? Both of the other Fenix watches were so dim.

  90. thomaek

    like many others here i’m outraged by the price..and probably will end up buying one anyway.

    is the only difference between the basic and the sapphire versions really the type of glass? if so i don’t see why i (or anybody) would pay an extra £100 for a slightly more resistant material that also increases weight. is the look of the sapphire glass different?

  91. Nick in Minnesota

    Until Garmin devices allow music and podcast transfers via my iphone they effectively don’t have that functionality. I don’t have a home computer anymore (just a work laptop that’s locked from non-work software, like garmin express). And I’m not alone.

    link to theverge.com
    link to extremetech.com

    Hopefully it will be available for the updated 935. If so, I’m in!

  92. Julian

    To what extent will the new functions/functionality be available to the previous models via a software update? Thanks in advance!

  93. Bill

    People need to start talking with their wallets. Imagine if Apple or didnt update the last released iphone from a year ago? People would go nuts. When the new iphone has new hardware its acceptable but all the phones get the new software regardless. Nobody is asking garmin to add NFC payments, but there is literally no reason why the software isnt basically the same between the generations.

    • Julian

      That’s what I was getting at above. If the hardware’s the same, at very least all the functionality that’s enabled by software should be pushed to the previous versions.

    • Brian Reiter

      What’s the problem here? The f5 series got a 9.20 production firmware release early last week and then at the end of the week a new beta firmware that adds Galileo GNSS and heart rate health alert warnings (like Apple WatchOS) and also bjg fixes. The Chronos got equivalent features in 12.20 and a 12.53 beta. That is support being maintained as far as I can see.

      The F3 and F3 HR do appear to still get firmware for serious bugs. The f3 is from early 2016. My friends with debugged and tuned F3 firmware get better GPS results than my f5x. It seems like perhaps the new 4.40 GPS firmware for the f5 and even more so the even newer 2.20 (?!) GPS firmware that enables Galileo will help the 5x along but this is more than a year after it was released. It seems like wringing the best precision and accuracy out of these tiny GPS systems requires a lot of tuning.

      It’s not as though other manufacturers have no bugs in their products.

      A bigger criticism might be that Garmin seems to take about a year to really shake out the bugs in a new hardware platform. On the other hand, the D2 and Descent series seem to have more stringent software QA and that translates into much longer wait time for new features to roll out.

      You have to decide if you want cutting edge tech or tried and true but give up on the latest features.

    • Brian Harris

      Yeah, I really like NFC payments on my watch. Use it daily. So I’m glad to see Garmin offering it honestly.
      But I guess that’s just me…

  94. LR

    Nice watch but costs 2x the price of my first Ironman registration!

  95. Jvr

    Lot of complaints about the price, which I sort of get but on the other hand you don’t have to buy these. And by that I don’t mean “don’t buy it to teach Garmin a lesson!”, I mean they have a wide product line from low to middle, middle-high, and high end. The 935 seems like a better buy if you just want a functional product for fitness tracking.

    If you want all these features in such a small, well designed, mature (at this point) package then you’ll have to pay. But if these features aren’t for you then by all means go with a lower priced model and get 90% of the functionality for way less than 90% of the cost.

    It all looks great to me – I decided to spring the extra $50 for the titanium 5+ because it’s lighter, which I’ll not be able to notice but psychologically it will seem better, lol.

    • Okrunner

      I see it both ways. With the entry price of $699, Garmin may be pricing themselves out of alot of markets. With the same money as the cheapest 5plus one could almost buy an Vivoactive 3 with music, a Garmin Edge 520, and a Garmin GPSMAP 64 and have a far better biking, and hiking experience. That doesn’t even take into consideration that it goes up, way up, from there. On the other hand, it certainly is Garmin’s most sophisticated gps device and all in a rather small handy package.

  96. Shane

    Sorry Ray I know this might questions getting asked a lot!!
    I have a 5x at the moment and thinking of upgrading. Will the 5 plus do everything that the 5X can but in the smaller body?
    Is the Screen size the same across all watches 1.2″?
    Has the battery life increased across all plus models or just the 5X plus

    Keep the baby stuff coming, 9 month old Max has some great stuff thanks to the reviews.

  97. Paul H. Aloe

    How many data fields can it use for Connect IQ. The Garmin 935 can only handle two, which is a pain. Also, what is the weight difference from these units to the 935

  98. MattB

    Small correction Ray – the pulse oximetry is measuring SpO2 technically, rather than SO2, the p standing for peripheral, where the latter really means SaO2, or arterial blood oxygen saturation, which requires invasive measurement. Doesn’t really matter much as they correlate very closely usually, and no-one wants an areterial catheter placed when they go running ?

    • @MattB, yep i think withings did an spo2 monitor a few years back. i think i have it in a cupboard somewhere

    • Nicole

      Technically, the p in SpO2 stands for “partial”, because you’re measuring partial pressure of oxygen (as opposed to partial pressure of carbon dioxide). And another nitpick: if you’re having an SpO2 of 65% you’re almost dead or will be in a few minutes. When a doctor sees an SpO2 of 65% on a patient they get really nervous. If SpO2 readings on the Garmin device actually read 65% on living people, then they’re doing something with scaling.

    • Thanks on the typo.

      Again, as noted elsewhere, Sp02 readings vary elsewhere on altitude. That’s precisely why it’s plotted over altitude. This feature isn’t really designed for sea-level readings (though it certainly works there). It’s designed for high altitude scenarios.

      Read this a bit more: link to researchgate.net

      And this: link to high-altitude-medicine.com

    • Tom

      This is an interesting one. I’m in the field, and I’m specifically researching the use of consumer (health) devices in outpatient settings. We use a box with a blood pressure monitor, weight scale, thermometer, etc, in several groups of patients with a cardiology-related diagnosis/procedures such as STEMI, open-heart surgery or ablation of a rhythm disturbance.

      When looking into devices with an SpO2-monitor, it’s hard to tell if their measurements are correct. A peripheral check is done on a part of the body where the light can partly shine through, such as on fingers or earlobes. Measuring it on (even ever so slightly moving) wrists, is a totally different ball game and it raises certain questions.

      I wonder if your measurements are correct. I think not: a saturation of 85% is worrysome, even at a slight altitude. I guess you’ve not measured that at an altitude of 4000m+, correct? Measurements not being correct is not an issue per se, as long as the trend is correct(ish).

      As for the feature not being designed for sea-level readings, I tend to disagree. I see a use for it in certain situations, linked to the clinical projects that we’re doing.

      One question: can the SpO2 measurement in the 5X Plus be used continuously? Or are they spot-checks, like in the Vivoactive 4?

  99. Raj

    Anyone else’s orders getting canceled from Garmin?

  100. Andrew

    I have waned the Fenix 5x for just over a year and it’s the best watch on the planet, having had Suunto and other so called smart watches. I am predominantly a cyclist so the new breed of watches are great for new purchases for people just buying in but not enough here to warrant any upgrade. Music to me is a danger when cycling and cannot fathom why anyone would want to remove their sensitivity to their surroundings and potentially endanger their life..but hey people are strange right! And as for pay features….cash is king and the marketing that follows on from electronic purchasing is just too invasive these days. So for me my fenix 5x is still the bees knees….great review though as always. Whenever I look to purchase I hunt out a DC review!


    Any indication when the D2 Delta will see a “plus” update?

  102. DCR goes for the longest Garmin review in the history of the world. But heck it is all interesting 🙂

  103. Jac

    Hi Ray,

    Is there any chance Garmin will be releasing an updated Fenix Chronos based on the Fenix 5s or 5 Plus, instead of the current Chronos which uses the outdated Fenix 3?

    • Stephen

      I came here wanting to ask same thing. The higher end 5 plus models are now in the chronos pricing bracket. The most expensive titanium 5 plus costs between the steel and titanium chronos now! Insane.
      The chronos needs some love I agree.

    • Brian Reiter

      I’ve only ever seen on fēnix Chronos in real life. That was owned by a wealthy gentleman on Safari in Zimbabwe who didn’t seem all that athletic. I am impressed that Garmin has been keeping the firmware in parity with the f5 series but it the forums also seem pretty sleepy. I wonder if it really sold all that well. The titanium f5 plus might be a second attempt at a similar premium segmentation that might get more traction with less investment from Garmin on a totally different SKU.

  104. Rj

    Hi Ray,

    Great in-depth review.

    Still using my Fenix 3 for 1,000km + endurance rides with breadcrumb
    navigation. As the lower battery life of the 5 and its vertical charging cable
    made it unusable for strapped-on charging.

    Do you think the new features here overweigh activity recording
    and breadcrumb gpx navigation with a full day battery life?
    Been wanting to get a new one, but worried that battery life is worse

  105. Sim

    Hey Ray,

    Great review! Can’t wait to try them out for myself.

    Question though, I am a visually impaired runner and can only read the screen either really close up or when there are only 1/2 fields on the screen. Is the plus version easier to read or the same as the fenix 5 and can you make the smart notifications bigger as I find them near impossible to read on my current fenix 5.



  106. Happy Runner

    The features chart indicates that it “Integrates ANT+ Bike Radar.”

    How so? Does it vibrate, beep, or give a visual display when a car approaches?

    • It’s just that you can connect it with Varia Radar via ANT+

    • Happy Runner

      Sure, but what does it do after it is connected? Beep, vibrate, visual alert? How does the radar alert through the watch when a car is detected?

    • Happy Runner

      Sure, but what does it do after it is connected? Beep, vibrate, visual alert? How does the radar alert through the watch when a car is detected?

    • Forrest

      You can control whether it beeps or vibrates when there’s a car behind you. The side of the display shows where the car is in relation to you.

      I find this works best if you disable vibrations for everything except they radar while you’re riding. Then when it buzzes, you know there’s a car behind you. I’ve been doing this with a F5X (not Plus) for a while.

  107. kls1891

    I picked up the 5X Plus today. Have just been playing around with, particularly the pulse ox sensor/widget. All was good until I connected to Garmin Express and it downloaded new firmware (3.10; not sure what the prior version was). After that, the pulse ox widget is nowhere to be found on the watch. Ray, or anyone else with the 5X Plus, are you experiencing the same thing?

    • Check Garmin Connect app and see what widgets you have enabled.

    • kls1891

      It’s not listed in the app, or Garmin Express under “installed” or “not installed”. So, still a problem.

    • Joop Verdoorn

      Restart the watch. Common problem….

    • kls1891

      Restart doesn’t cause the Pulse Ox widget to show up either. Over on the Garmin Fenix 5X plus forums there is a thread talking about this. The watch needs a recent GPS connection (presumably to get elevation) in order to calculate Pulse Ox. If it doesn’t have a recent GPS connection, then the Pulse Ox widget disappears. So, if you’re having this problem, start an activity to connect to GPS, then your Pulse Ox widget should show again.

      Garmin says this behavior is “by design”. Seems confusing to me. There was a suggestion that instead of hiding the widget, perhaps a message could be displayed in the widget saying a recent GPS connection is required for Pulse Ox. Other widgets provide messaging when criteria hasn’t been met for them to function, instead of just disappearing.

    • I suspect the reason for some level of GPS lock is to validate altimeter data (at least get it in the ballpark). Remember the altimeter data is used for the acclimation portion.

      I haven’t seen it hide it for me, but then again, I’ve often locked GPS purely out of using it frequently.

  108. Michael Coyne

    As a Forerunner 935 owner (who actually cancelled my Fenix 5 order while it was on it’s way because the 935 came out while they were still catching up with Fenix 5 shipments), what are the chances there will be a “Fenix 5 Plus Plastic” coming out within a year or so?
    This is absolutely everything I dreamed of a watch doing when I was researching, and things like the lack of music, pay, and onboard routing/mapping were all stuff I agonized over the decision for hours back in the day. Pretty much the difference right there of being able to leave the phone behind (although fingers still crossed for a garmin someday that has garmin battery life when you need it for the Ironman, but can still do cellular when you don’t, or can turn cellular on for an emergency, possibly on race day).

    Buuuutttt…. as a current owner of a 935 who likely can’t return his… and doesn’t care much to pay extra for the “premium” look, and REALLY doesn’t care to pay extra for said premium when it makes the watch heavier/thicker… I don’t know if I can justify it.

    I really WANT to justify it though… definitely have my face pressed sadly against the virtual shop window right now, hoping a plastic version of this deliciousness shows up soon…

    Thanks for the post! Extremely helpful as always. Last year I made a Fenix 5X “simulator” using info you had on weight and thickness and it helped a lot with my decision to choose against the 5X. The more I wear my 935 the more I stand by that decision.

    You’e the only guy out there who provides “trivial” info like that (and with numbers!) even though it’s a huge part of whether someone will like a watch. Can’t thank you enough for that.

    • Boris

      @Michael Coyne

      You’re not the only one. I also switched from my heavy&bulky F3/F3HR to the light FR935. Much much much much better. ?

      For testing purpose I sometimes have to use the F3HR on my other wrist… then immediately think about a counterweight for the other arm. ?

      Stick to the FR935 aka F5L

  109. Lev

    Just visited the Garmin site – I guess they reduced the price )

  110. Eyal

    From a battery stand point it seems that Fenix 5 has 24 hours (1 sec recording) and the Fenix 5 plus has 18 hours. Can you please share why it’s actually less?
    One comment: price wise – I think this is a huge elephant. More like a mammoth.

  111. Jim

    Any noted distance accuracy differences between the models? Wondering if size of the watch changes the size of the antennae, and so the accuracy of the measurements. Thanks so much for your review!

  112. michel pierard

    Hi Ray, one of the new feature I am strongly expecting is a better positionning in order to provide a better accuracy in term of distance and speed. On a races like UTMB, there can have several kilometers differences between what you have done and what the watch is showing, because of signal reflection on the mountains. This is even extremely bad in ultratac.

    To what I can see from the garmin connect link you did in Florida, it is still clearly visible that the positionning is several meters away from what you did. It doesn’t look to be improved compared to previous generation.

    I really wonder why they haven’t used the new dual frequency Broadcom BCM47755 that is available since last year, this chip is supposed to be much more accurate, avoid the reflections in cities and mountains….

    • Dom

      why they haven’t used the new dual frequency Broadcom BCM47755
      Dual frequency needs a dual frequency antenna, and the Fenix watches seem to use the metal bezel as part of the antenna system. My suspicion is that reengineering that system for dual frequency is too big a job for what is pretty much a mid-model-life facelift rather than a new watch. Think we’ll see dual frequency on the Fenix 6, whenever that may arrive. As others have pointed out in the comments, the Galileo constellation isn’t complete yet anyway, so some days and times the advantage won’t be there because there aren’t enough satellites in your piece of the sky.

  113. Ben

    Is anyone familiar with how the battery life would deteriorate over time? While the functions in smart watches are great to have, I wonder how much of an issue battery life will be after a year or 2, having to charge the watch every day or so. Plenty often these days that we have to change out a smart phone simply because its battery has become too terrible..

    • Dom

      Take a closer look at the battery life specs. They shouldn’t need to be charged every day or two; maybe the 5s plus would need charging after two days if you used it for a couple of hours of GPS every day with music on (which would be quite heavy use though I have no doubt there are readers here who do that much), but the others would definitely do better. So the degeneration is slower because you don’t get through as many charge cycles.

      My current Fenix 5, I’ve gone from charging every 7 days to every 6 days in the course of a year, but my hours/week have gone up by enough to account for that on their own.

    • Andrew M

      Dom makes a good point. Li-Ion batteries typically lose about 20% capacity over about 500 charge cycles. For a cell phone which might typically have close to a full charge cycle every day, you could hit the 500 cycles mark in less than 2 years.

      With the existing 5 series, many people have been getting about a week between charges, so it might be 10 years before you hit that 500 cycle mark. Of course, using maps all the time on the plus series might lead to shorter time between charges. But you probably don’t need to use maps all the time on your regular routes – just keep the maps for running new routes.

      If you want to truly maximize the lifetime of your battery, you want to try to keep it between 30% and 70% of charge, rather than almost completely drain it, then give it a full charge. Just 5-10 minutes on charge each day will probably keep it nicely in this range with typical use.

  114. Myrna Gonzalez Childress

    My Fenix 5s has been a huge let down from a tracking elevation standpoint. When I call Garmin to address they walk me through all this nonsense in hopes I get better accuaracy. When it works, it’s very temporary. I’m a bit peeved that they come out with new products to address DEFECTS and expect us to shell out more money to actually get what we paid for in the first place. I know there’s additional functionality here but that still doesn’t address the issues that exist on their previous model or have I missed something?

  115. Mario

    The Fenix ​​5x plus really has everything you need. I especially like the Galieo support and battery life of 32 hours. What I only missing is a longer battery life for a pure everyday watch and more than 4 freely selectable data fields per screen. I can not imagine that this watch is just a transition and there will be an even better Fenix ​​6 next year. Very soon, Polar wants to introduce a watch with completely new functions, but I can not imagine that it is nearly as good as the Fenix ​​5x plus.

  116. H Pegge

    Thank you for the review, I like the fact that maps are standard on the watch; but what about the readability? I use reading glasses, not while running 😉 I suppose you can zoom in but can you lock the zoom rate? Thanks

  117. capitan dacian

    does screen got better? i had fenix 3, now i’m on fenix 5 but what bothers me its the poor screen contrast, for fenix 5plus only good thing for me its the add of galileo gps

  118. Richard

    Afternoon all,

    Im thinking of getting a new running watch.  I started with the original Suunto Ambit, then to a FR620 and now the owner of a FR630.  I use this watch for daily activity tracking (steps) running and tracking my hill walking activity.  I have a separate HRM for all the fitness and health stats.

    Im looking at the newer watches for two/three reasons and would welcome folks’ opinions. 

    Firstly, I’m keen on the Strava Live Segment.  How does this actually work i.e. does it pre-load segments from Strava such that when you get to the start of the segment it beeps at you and lets you see how you are doing against your previous best effort?  How does this actually work?

    The second interest is the optical HRM.  Whilst I appreciate that the straps are generally seen as more accurate, are the watch-based optical ones any good i.e. good enough for a keen hobbyist like me.  My primary reason for wanting a wrist based option is to track my calories expended during the day, not just whilst running as I need to lose a little weight.  I also need to lower my resting heart rate.  Does the device collect this type of data.

    The final element I have seen which I like the look of is the mapping (only on the 5X).  Given that I take a phone and map with me into the hills (plus my 630 to measure the activity) is the mapping on the 5X a gimmick rather than being any good?  OK, getting my phone/map out when I’m on the hills is a bit of a faff and so having this data on the wrist would appear to have its benefits.  That said, is the size of the screen on the watch so small as to render it useless and is the mapping OS 1;25 000 scale or a different level of detail?  How is it updated and does it update regularly?  Is it OS mapping (or equivalent) so that it also shows the byways, footpaths etc.

    I like the technology so part of me would buy this to have the newest features however as they are £440* and £530* respectively which is a major jump from the 630 I bought two years ago, I wonder whether I simply stay with map/phone/630 and save a some loot given that I can do all the things I want to now, albeit somewhat more clunkily.

    Do these newer watches have anything else which would appeal that I have missed.

    I would expect to be able to get £150-200 back for my watch/strap combo on eBay to put against any new watch.



    • Brian Reiter

      Your starred Strava live segments and either next best competitor or goal time up to some large limit of segments are synced and stored offline on the watch. When you approach a saved/starred segment the watch beeps and tells you your goal to beat. When you complete the segment it tells you the time and time relative to your PB. During the segment it puts up a special new data page (which you can scroll out of), if you are beating your goal time the watch color is white with black letters if you are behind the goal pace then it inverts to black with white letters.

      All works great in practice except I cannot figure out any way to customize the Strava segment data page.

  119. DanielV

    any indications that anything of this comes to FR645? Opinions?

  120. Max

    Awesome in depth review.

    How easy is it to change maps on the watch, as i travel a lot round the world I really like the option of running new routes guided by the maps. Not really paying hundreds of dollars to get all the supported maps from garmin in that case. Watch itself is already rather pricey

    If you use the OSM does that function still works?


  121. John Brubaker

    Rant begins: A $700 starting price is such a joke. I’d estimate that this watch is worth $300 tops. It’s a niche product and Garmin is eventually going to lose the privilege of fleecing its customers with these products. After owning the Fenix 5 for a year (and many Garmin watches prior) and dealing with sensor dropouts and Garmin’s embarassing ability to fix bugs (could not maintain connection with Garmin Connect Mobile on my phone for about 6 months), I lost all faith that Garmin could ever stay on top of their software. All these new software features are useless if they’re not reliable. At any moment Apple, for example, could release a product that does every single thing the Fenix 5 Plus does, with FAR superior quality control, more advanced hardware, and far better software, and these joke prices would look as ridiculous as they really are.

    I fully understand the differences between an Apple Watch and Fenix 5, but the problem I’m arguing is PRICE. The only Garmin products I would ever use at this point are second hand used devices. I’d wear them for triathlons or long races, get the data off of them and stuff them back in a drawer. The prices are absurd and the software and bug fixing are way too unreliable for an everyday watch.

    • JR

      If it were so easy, then other companies would be doing it. But nobody else comes close to competing with the Fenix series. There are a couple of “fully featured” GPS watches from smaller companies in the $300 range, and while they offer a decent value, they’re not really competitive with Garmin yet.

      Also, prices are relative to volume, particularly when it comes to software, which is Garmin’s big advantage over its competitors. Nobody else can offer the features that Garmin does because nobody else has close to as many software engineers.

      Anyway, Garmin has continually made a killing off of their highest end watches, which is pretty much the only way of determining whether they’re priced right or not.

    • Greg

      If it was truly this easy, why hasn’t Apple done it? Why hasn’t anyone else done it? I mean Suunto has something close, but it’s not $300 either. I’m guessing there’s more to it then you think, and trivializing what goes into it doesn’t change that fact.

    • JR

      I forgot about the new Suunto 9. Only $50 cheaper, with a fraction of the functionality, and weirdly, nobody complained about the Suunto price when Ray previewed it. Maybe it’s because nobody actually wants that watch.

    • Rob Montgomery

      The Suunto 9 is $599. Not only that, you can get it with an automatic 10% off so you are looking at $539.99. That’s $160 difference, not $50. And it’s got the important functionality. I’d rather Garmin remove all the fluff and sell us an equivalent Suunto watch for the same price.

    • Rob Montgomery

      Not only that, but that’s the baseline 5+ that isn’t even showing up on any retailer sites at the moment. And it doesn’t have sapphire glass like the S9. If you want sapphire screen, you are looking at $539.99 for the S9, or $799 for the 5+. That’s a big difference.

    • Greg

      As others have said, you’re welcome to vote with your wallet. Don’t give Garmin you’re business.

    • John

      Compexity is not the issue here; competition is. Something like an Apple Watch is objectively far more impressive than a Fenix 5 Plus. Yet one costs $700 and costs $400. This is obviously not a viable alternative to a multisport watch but I think it’s hard to argue that the Fenix 5 is literally worth its price. Suunto makes similar watches for similar prices to Garmin, but from the reviews I’ve read over the years, they don’t present much competition. The Fenix 5 Plus costs what it costs because there’s no alternative.

      And for what Garmin charges, you’re getting terrible software reliability and bug fixing, and embarassingly bad quality control. My Fenix 5 couldn’t sync with my iphone 7 without having to restart both devices, for about 6 months before they finally fixed it, and my coworker has the identical problem with his Pixel. And $600 for a watch that can’t maintain an ANT+ connection to sensors? They didn’t test for that? Hilarious. And of course, no recall program, no admission of a problem. Just a new hardware release a year later for $150 more.

      I was on these comment threads a year or two ago getting all excited about the Fenix 5, and the same for various Garmin watches before that, always looking for the perfect all-day wearable. Problem is, Garmin is not up to the task. In my experience if you expect too much from their devices you’ll end up disappointed by sloppy execution, and you’ll pay a LOT of money for it. They’re great for training and races, so personally I choose to just use an older Garmin for that purpose and not expect them to be able to reliably do much else.

    • Ron Davis

      How is the Apple Watch more attractive here? I’ve been an Apple Watch owner until recently (thank god for my works Garmin discount) mainly because of Apple Pay and on board music storage. Garmin has Apple beat on Data analysis, optical rate sensor, and ability to sync multiple sensors via ANT+ and Bluetooth, one stop shop via Connect app for data, and massive battery life advantage. Hard truth with Apple’s ability to sync sensors is you can only sync one via bluetooth and sometimes it won’t sync and it may cut out, which is annoying when you’re in the middle of a workout. And the battery life, let’s not go there.

      The ONLY thing Apple Watch has Garmin beat on is notifications and replies via the watch. It’s really a question to how invested you want to stay within Apple’s ecosystem with the Apple Watch as you’re giving up a lot. In reality Garmin is a Sport Fitness watch with smart notifications and Apple Watch is a Smart Watch with some fitness features.

    • Brian Harris

      Agree, even at $400 I would have bought one. But $700? Pass. Until it can really replace my phone out on a ride/run, it will always be pass at that price. (Now, if it could allow calls/txt on it’s own, I’d GLADLY pay $700)

  122. rabbit

    Hi Ray,

    another question about the new climbpro feature:

    is it working only for courses or, if I create a route on a routable map with elevation data on the watch itself, it is also working?


  123. Sam

    What does this mean for 935? Seems like it’s not needed as 5s is basically same size

  124. Ali

    This looks like a sweet little machine, but how is the display compared to previous models? I’m tired of having a watch with a display that looks like a 1980s MS-DOS computer. When the display looks like an Apple Watch – then I will be happy.

    • Paul S.

      There’s an AW3 LTE on my wrist at the moment. You do realize that the beautiful display on the Apple Watch is off most of the time? If they left it on, the battery would be drained in a hurry. The display on my Epix, for example, is always on. I can see it without tapping it or raising my arm. It’s not nearly as good as the AW display, but far more visible in sunlight. Since Garmin is making devices primarily for outdoors use, there are other considerations besides mere “beauty”.

    • Ali

      Errrr…… I think I just got a mansplaining. ?

      I am aware of the differences between the watches. I also have AW3LTE on my wrist at the moment. My point is that Garmin needs to bring up their game a little. The display is crap unless you are in bright sunlight. The photos in their ads do not represent the true quality of the product.