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Garmin Fenix 6 Series In-Depth Review

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It’s no coincidence that in just a few hours one of the toughest trail running races on earth – UTMB – will begin in Chamonix, France. The journey will take competitors on a 171KM loop with literal mountains of elevation climb. Garmin specifically chose today, and in particular – their location of Chamonix to launch the Fenix 6 series. In recent years, trail running has largely been the domain of Suunto devices, primarily due to both longer battery life and frankly, stability. Sponsorships of elite trail runners also helped too.

But that tide is slowly shifting. I spent last week up in Chamonix as athletes from around the world were out doing their final training runs, and these days it’s more of a blend of watches on wrists than the Suunto domination of a few years ago. And there’s no doubt that the specs Garmin has thrown down with the Fenix 6 series will cause many heads there to turn.

The Fenix 6 series is a slate of more than a dozen different watch variants, with battery life extending upwards of 120 days. Yes, days. And GPS-on time for ultra-type scenarios at nearly 150 hours. Or in full expedition mode GPS-on time at 56 days. Yes, again, days. Obviously, there are some caveats to those numbers – but we’ll get to those. Oh, and did I mention there’s now solar charging of the unit? No, it’s not the panacea that your own solar farm might be – but it’s a start and hint at where Garmin is going. And the new PacePro feature will automatically create a course-elevation optimized race plan for your specific goal time.

I’ve been testing the Fenix 6 series in a variety of conditions from the city streets of NYC to the high alpine trails of the French Alps. Plus the beautiful windy flats of the Netherlands. I’ve got a pretty good idea on what works well, and what still needs some love. Don’t worry, I cover it all through the course of more than 11,000 words.

But if words aren’t really your thing, then I’ve got a nice tidy video that runs through the top 16 new features on the Fenix 6 series in one quick go. It’s as good as it gets for efficiency around here:

Oh, and finally, as always I use devices like wilderness trails – leave nothing behind. These are media loaner units that go back to Garmin shortly. In fact, retailers are actually shipping Fenix 6 variants today. You can help support the site here by checking out the links at the end of the post. Doing so makes you awesome.

What’s New:

As you might expect with a product titled its sixth edition (actually, they skipped over a Fenix 4, but then did secondary editions of the Fenix 3 (HR) and 5 (Plus), so we’re roughly in the ballpark), much of the product is about building with new features. Garmin usually follows a bit of a tick-tock pattern with their product releases, specifically when looking at their Fenix and Forerunner lineups at the higher end. One product family will get new features first (in this case the Garmin FR945), and then the next product from the other family will get those features plus some extra (in this case, the Fenix 6 series).

As such I’m going to divide this up into two basic categories. First are the things that are totally new/changed in the Fenix 6 that are otherwise unseen on any other Garmin products to date. And the second is things that have been added since the Fenix 5 Plus or Forerunner 945. There’s slightly more things since the Fenix 5 Plus last summer that came in the FR945 that are joining the Fenix 6.

Here’s what’s totally new/changed in the Fenix 6 series:

– Split product line into two portions: Pro and Base. Pro has WiFi, Maps, Music, Golf Maps
– There are three sizes of watches: 42mm (Fenix 6s), 47mm (Fenix 6), 51mm (Fenix 6X)
– Adds solar charging to Fenix 6 Pro Solar: Termed “Power Glass”, this will increase battery life on sunnier days
– Adds Trendline Popularity Routing Visibility (Pro): This allows you to actually see the ‘heatmaps’ on your device
– Adds map display themes: This includes high contrast, popularity, marine, dark, and outdoor.
– Adds new widget glances concept: Basically shrinks widgets to 1/3rd the screen size, so you can see three at once
– Adds new PacePro feature: This replaces old-school paper race pace bands, creating pace targets for race based on grade/reverse splits/etc…
– Adds new Power Manager feature: Gives detailed information about the impacts/tradeoffs of features on battery life
– Adds new Power Modes feature: Allows you to create custom power/battery modes, with time remaining per activity
– Adds new MARQ Expedition ultra-long mode: For multi-week GPS activities. Basically shuts off everything except reduced rate GPS tracking
– Adds ski resort maps: These started on the MARQ series, with 2,000 ski resorts worldwide
– Adds golf maps pre-loaded: Previously you had to manually load these one by one, also, more detailed golf features
– Adds support for wrist-based swimming HR: This was teased recently on the FR945 beta updates
– Adds new ultra-low battery mode: Gets up to 80 days of battery life, but super basic watch functionality only
– Revamped ClimbPro with new coloring: Now matches the Edge 530/830 styling
– Increased data fields per page: Up to 8 fields on the 6X, and up to 6 fields on the 6S/6
– Increased screen size and reduced bezel (varies by model, but up to 36% bigger screen size on the 6X
– Reduced ‘lug to lug distance’ on Fenix 6S: This should help those with smaller wrists, more on this later
– Reduced thickness of all devices. The 6S shrunk by 10%, the 6 by 7%, and the 6X by 15%.
– Changed from MediaTek GPS chipset to Sony GPS Chipset: Like every other new Garmin 2019 device
– Battery life increased: Up to 80 days in battery saver mode for 6X, and up to 120hrs in max battery mode for 6X, all before solar (see full chart below)

And then here’s the list of items that come from the MARQ & Forerunner 945 series to the Fenix 6. I don’t believe there’s any new software features on the FR945 that aren’t on the Fenix 6 series. It got them all. Here they are:

– Added PulseOx (pulse oximeter data): Within Fenix lineup it was previously only on the Fenix 5X Plus variant
– Added Respiration Rate (post-activity, also as a data field): With chest strap only
– Added new Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor: This is the V3, same as MARQ/FR245/945 sensor.
– Added training load focus stats: Shows how workouts benefit a given target/focus area
– Added deeper training effect details/metrics: Further details on the impact of a workout
– Added body battery functionality: Kinda like Street Fighter body energy levels
– Added heat acclimation: For any workouts in temps over 71°F/21.6°C
– Added altitude acclimation: For any time or workouts spent above 850m/2,788ft
– Added Incident Detection: If you crash your bike it notifies someone (this was recently added to the Fenix 5 Plus via firmware update)
– Added Safety/Tracking Assistance: You can press button to send help alert to friends/family (this was recently added to the Fenix 5 Plus via firmware update)
– Revamped race predictor to be a bit more strict on predictions (more than just VO2Max lookup charts now)
– VO2Max now compensates for heat: Previously it didn’t
– Training Status now compensates for heat: Previously it didn’t
– Redesigned a bunch of the user interface, especially for post workout stats
– CIQ data field app limit remains at 2 concurrent per app

Phew. Got all that? Good, I hope so.

If not, fear not. There’s still like 10,000 more words and 120 other photos for these concepts to sink in (or, for you to give up). Either way, I’ve got you covered. First though, let’s get these all unboxed.

Oh wait – for those wondering, the Forerunner 245/245 Music, Forerunner 945, and MARQ series will get PacePro. The FR945 will get the map themes as well as widget galleries. The MARQ series will get everything the Fenix 6 has. No specific timelines for these. For other items I’m awaiting clarification/timing from Garmin.

Unboxing:

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Back in my Fenix 5 Plus In-Depth Review unboxing section, I had noted that there were about the same number of editions (SKU’s) of the Fenix 5 Plus as there were Brady Bunch cast members. Well, I’m here to tell you that Marcia got pregnant, because now there’s even more SKU’s. Seriously, it’s kinda nuts. Here’s the entire listing of all of the children in this family photo that Garmin had (all prices parity USD/EUR):

Fenix6SKU's

The key takeaway from the above is simply that there are basically two lines of Fenix 6 units:

Base: These don’t include maps, WiFi, or music.
Pro: Includes all the maps, music, WiFi, and features that build atop those functions

Essentially it’s as if Garmin is refreshing the base Fenix 5 lineup with the base Fenix 6 lineup, while the Fenix 5 Plus becomes the Fenix 6 Pro series. Roughly.

Now thankfully for you I won’t be doing a full unboxing of all the variants. Instead, I’m consolidating it into a single unboxing of the Fenix 6S Pro. Though frankly – the boxing of all of them is identical in terms of what you get inside, except for the specialty units that come with an extra strap.

And with that, here’s the full unboxing of a single unit:

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Up above is your standard issue Garmin wearables box. Or at least, the square variety of the box. On the back you’ve got a bunch of details about exactly which version you bought:

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Crack open the top and you’ll find the watch sitting there looking at you:

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Meanwhile, unpack the top and here’s all the goodness inside. In this particular case it’s shown with an extra strap that was included in the box sent to me. That is *NOT* the norm. No extra strap for you! I’ll re-shoot this photo sometime after I sleep.

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Here’s a closer look at that watch, and the lawless strap:

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The charging cable remains the same as the Fenix 5 series:

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And the manual will be totally useless after this review:

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Now what’s actually notable about the Fenix 6S in particular is that the lug to lug distance has been reduced. You can see it most clearly in the below photo atop the blue Fenix 5S Plus unit. Notice how the white lugs (where the straps connect to), are significantly smaller:

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Seen as well from the top-down view too. This helps those with smaller wrists as it makes the watch a bit more compact and not overreaching off the sides of your wrists into thin air. That in turn also gives you better fit on the strap, which finally gives you better optical HR sensor accuracy. See, it’s all about the accuracy.

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But sizing tweaks don’t stop there. There’s some big changes in terms of the display and bezels, whereby the bezels have shrunk a bit on the 6/6X units, and the overall thickness has shrunk on all units. This shows you the exact differences in both screen/display sizing and thickness between the Fenix 5 Plus series and the Fenix 6 series. First up, the increased screen size:

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And next, the Fenix 6 depth (thickness) sizing:

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Got all that? Good, let’s start using the darn thing.

The Basics:

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Now that we’ve got ourselves freed of our cardboard bonds, let’s start with some basics. If you’ve been around the Garmin block a few times, then honestly you can skip this section. I’m mostly talking about things like the user interface, daily activity, and sleep tracking, and all those related metrics. We’ll start the sport stuff and things like solar charging and such down a bit later. Though I do discuss the new widget glances feature in this section. First up though, watch faces.

Actually, wait – first up – another video. You can skip this, but if you want the complete tour of the user interface – then this video is for you!

Like all past Garmin Fenix series watches, you can customize the watch face. That includes swapping it out for an entirely different watch face as well as customizing every bit of data you see on it (or, don’t want to see on it):

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In addition, you can use Garmin’s Connect IQ app to create your own watch face with a picture of your kids, Ben & Jerry’s container, or whatever else is important to you.

The first chance though that you’ll really notice with the Fenix 6 series is the new glanceable widgets. Widgets are basically full pages that you could scroll through when not in a workout. Mini-apps if you will. Things like weather, steps, training status, music, and so on. But they always took up the full screen, even if they were basically just displaying one line of data. Garmin is now introducing glanceable widgets, which fit three widgets per ‘page’, as you scroll through them:

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If you select the highlighted widget, then you’ll get the full widget that you previously knew and loved, such as this:

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Frankly, this may be one of my favorite features of the Fenix 6 series. Which sounds silly until you realize I hated scrolling endlessly through widgets trying to find the data I wanted. Now, I can scroll three times less (or faster). It’s brilliant. Here’s a small gallery of widgets currently on my watch. Note the solar widget is only applicable to the Fenix 6X Solar unit. All the other widgets are across all Fenix 6 units.

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Like all Garmin wearables these days there’s activity tracking covering your steps, stairs, sleep, and other meanderings. You can see this data under a few different widget glances, but you can also customize your watch face with any of this too. In the case of widgets, you’ll see for example the steps one:

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Once I tap into it then I get the last 7 days of steps, or I can also get distance too:

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Another metric in that same category is 24×7 heart rate. This is automatically enabled and monitoring every second, all part of recording and ultimately plotting your data. You can have certain watch faces display your HR constantly as well.  If you tap into the heart rate widget you’ll get a graph of the last 4 hours – and then again down to the resting HR for the last 7 days.

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All of this (steps as well as HR) is accessible on both Garmin Connect (web), and Garmin Connect Mobile (smartphone app). You can graph it and re-graph it a million ways.

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Garmin also plots stress levels as well. Both on the device in real-time as well as later in the app. I generally find this metric pretty close to reality, for better or worse.

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A new metric introduced over the last year is Garmin’s Body Battery. Think of this like the old Street Fighter arcade game, whereby if you got a good night’s sleep it’d start at 100%, and then throughout the day would degrade. It’d go down faster for more intense things, and re-gain battery status if you’re sitting on a couch watching TV. I find it a good proxy, though occasionally not perfect. Within the watch you can see the last four hours, as well as four hours overlaid against stress. Further, you can see how much has charged or drained since midnight.

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And again, all of this is also plotted within the Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile apps as well.

Related to body battery is sleep metrics. The unit will automatically record your sleep each night, and supposed sleep phases. While I can validate that the sleep times are usually within a couple minutes of my actual fall asleep/wake times, I have no method of validating the sleep phases bits. The sleep metrics are displayed on the app:

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New to the remainder of the Fenix 6 series is PulseOx. This initially came to the Fenix 5X Plus last year, but quickly spread like wildfire to the remainder of the Garmin lineup. PulseOx aims to measure your blood oxygen saturation levels. It has two basic purposes in a Garmin wearable, one is around sleep (as potentially an indicator of sleep related issues), and two in high altitude environments as an indicator that something is about to go horribly wrong. Two totally different use cases (note: medical folks and such also monitor blood oxygen levels too for other reasons). For the first one – sleep – you can track your PulseOx readings each night. It’s the red light that’ll light up on the back of the watch.

This is then plotted as part of the greater PulseOx readings widget (below), and on GCM:

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Whereas the second one, focused more on the high altitude aspect of things over the course of 7 days, then you can plot PulseOx readings against altitude. You’ll see this in both the widget and online:

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Keep in mind that getting a good PulseOx reading requires you be very still. So it won’t typically trigger during a workout. Thus if at high altitudes you’ll need to pause for probably 15-30 seconds to get a clean reading (and doing so manually is your best bet).

Last but not least on our pile of basics is smartphone notifications. The device will display any smartphone notifications from any apps on your device, it’s not limited to just texts or calendars or such. You can configure whether or not to display these, as well as whether or not to display them in a workout. When a notification comes in, you can either cancel/clear it immediately, or you can open it up to get more information:

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In the case of iOS users, there’s no further action you can take upon these. For example, you can’t respond to them and text back – that’s a limitation of iOS that Apple only reserves for the Apple Watch. The notifications on the Garmin device support about 120 emoji’s as well these days, which seems to cover most of the things I see come across. Note that images do not render on the screen from a text that may have pictures in it.

Ok, with that we’ve covered all the basics of the watch. Onto using it in sports!

Sports Usage:

The Fenix 6 series follows in the footsteps of the Forerunner 945 & MARQ series watches from a sports standpoint. That means you’re gaining all the new physio-specific features largely based on FirstBeat work. This includes bits like altitude & temperature acclimation, but also the new training load focus and recovery bits. We’ll dive into more of that later. First, we’ll cover some quick basics for those of you new to Garmin, and then I’ll show you how the new PacePro works on a real course, plus all the training load and recovery fun.

To start a workout though you’re going to simply tap the upper right button. This will give you a list of sports that you can customize and set favorites.

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Basically every sport you’d want to measure is in there, including all of the following:

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, Clocks, Boat, Tactical, Jumpmaster, Other [Custom]

Once you’ve selected a sport it’ll show you the status of GPS & heart rate acquisition, as well as any connectivity to sensors. Technically speaking, while you were pondering which sport to choose, it had already started on all those bits.  What you’ll notice at the top though is the battery level. By default this will show you how many hours you’ve got left in that mode:

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Alternatively you can enable battery percentage as well, which will show that too. And this would be a great time to talk about battery modes and such, but I’ve set aside an entire section for that down below. It’s super cool stuff that builds upon (read: “borrows”) what Suunto did with their Suunto 9 and battery profiles, but really kicks it up a notch. But we don’t have time for that now. Let’s get to the sport first.

Once you’ve found GPS and heart rate it’s a good time to start the workout. It’s here that you’ll see your data pages as you’ve configured them. Like past Garmin watches, you still (for now) have to configure these on the watch itself and not via a smartphone app. I think Garmin gets the desire for folks to configure them on a phone or web app, but they aren’t there yet.

On the bright side, you’ve now got up to 8 data fields per page for the Fenix 6X, and up to 6 fields per page for the Fenix 6S/6 units. Here’s how that looks:

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There’s also multiple new layouts, as well as layouts for 5 and 7 data fields too. So you’ve now got more data than you probably know what to do with. As with before you can use stock data pages or create numerous custom data pages. If you run out of data pages somehow, you’ve got a data consumption problem.  You should see a specialist.

In any case, once out running/riding/swimming/etc, you’ll see data fields as normal:

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This is a good time to mention that the Fenix 6 now supports optical heart rate while swimming. While Garmin has been beta trialing it on the Forerunner 945 this summer, it’s mostly ready for primetime now. They did note that like other companies, people may see variable results with optical HR in the water. But it’s an option for you to use that, or the HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM straps if you want to record HR. However, only the optical HR option will show your heart rate in real-time. We’ll briefly discuss optical HR accuracy in the heart rate accuracy section below.

Beyond heart rate sensors the unit supports all the same sensor types as the Fenix 5 Plus series did, including both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart standardized sensor types. They are 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+).

Once you’ve wrapped up and saved an activity you’ll get the new style end screen that mirrors the MARQ/FR945. This includes a course map profile, along with key stats. As you press the top right button you’ll iterate through some of the overriding training load metrics.

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Whereas you can scroll down into the weeds for things like lap splits and other summary metrics:

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All of this is of course synced to Garmin Connect via WiFi (on the Pro models) or via Garmin Connect Mobile (via Bluetooth Smart on your phone). Or, you can use USB and Garmin Express. Or, you can just go off the grid and ignore all that stuff. If you’ve set up synchronization to 3rd parties like Strava or TrainingPeaks, it’ll instantly send there as well. Here’s how it looks on Garmin Connect Mobile (aka GCM):

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And here’s an activity on Garmin Connect online (you can click it to see more details on the actual Garmin Connect activity page):

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But let’s circle back to the training load stats. Each workout is given a specific Training Effect label and details. These are split between Aerobic and Anaerobic benefit, and are associated with a given load value. It also specifies what target area that it’s benefiting:

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That data gets fed into the revamped Training Status functionality/widget, which shows the direction your fitness level and load levels are trending.

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Below that, you’ll notice the little mountain and sun icons along the bottom. We’ll get to that shortly. First though, hit down twice (once past VO2Max) and you’ll see the 7-day load listed. This is color-coded by the type of load that you’ve gathered, as well as the total load values:

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Tap down again and you’ve got your 4-week Load Focus. This basically consolidates all the training you’ve been doing into three specific buckets: Anaerobic, Aerobic High, and Aerobic Low, and then gives you specific target zones to be within (little pill boxes):

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As you can see, I’ve blown out my ‘Aerobic High’ target. If I’m short in a given area, then it’ll tell me what to do. Or, in my case, since I’m somehow not short in any areas, it’ll tell me what my training has been doing lately in terms of benefit:

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If I go down again, I’ll get Recovery Time until my next hard workout:

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After that, we’ve got altitude/heat acclimation. The goal behind both altitude and heat acclimation metrics is to figure out whether or not you’re acclimated to a given temperature or altitude. Obviously, both can significantly impact performance.  Starting with heat acclimation, the function leverages nearby weather stations. So your unit has to have connected to Garmin Connect Mobile within 3 hours of starting your ride in order to receive that weather data (it doesn’t use on-device temperature).

If we scroll back to the main Training Status page you’ll remember the small icons on the bottom of the training status page if you’re in the midst of acclimating to anything. In the case of below last week, I managed to score both heat and altitude acclimation icons. I unlocked the altitude badges in the Alps and on transatlantic flights overnight, and then on the heat I got that in both Amsterdam and NYC.

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Altitude acclimation/adaption starts with a minimum threshold at altitudes above 850m/2,788ft, and tops out at 4,000m/13,123ft (Garmin doesn’t calculate above that level, sorry folks). Garmin says that they divide up training vs living altitudes, just as typical studies would. The company says that adaptation algorithms within the Fenix 6/MARQ/Forerunner 945/Edge 530/830 assume total adaptation after 21 days, and that adaptation is faster at the beginning of altitude exposure. Additionally, adaptation will decay within 21-28 days depending on acclimation level.

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Fun geekery moment for you: On the Fenix 6 Series/Forerunner 945/MARQ, the altitude acclimation is based both on workouts, but also on where you sleep each night. At midnight the unit will quietly take an altitude reading (actually, it’s doing it all the time anyway), and then use that reading to determine acclimation. Where this gets fun is when you take redeye flights (as I did last night from the US to Europe), as it’ll take that reading at between 6,000-8,000ft (pressurized cabin altitude of a commercial airliner). At first you may think this would skew results, but in reality – it’s actually correct. Your body is acclimating to that altitude. Where it’s slightly off is that it assumes you’re spending 24 hours at that altitude, rather than the 5-14 hours you’re likely spending at that elevation.

Meanwhile, the next screen is heat acclimation.

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For heat acclimation it applies a heat correction factor for rides above 71°F/22°C, using a percentage based amount from published studies (humidity is also factored into this as well). This is then shown in the training status widget. Garmin says they assume full acclimation takes a minimum of 4 days, and acclimation/adaptation to a given high temperature will automatically decay after 3 days of skipped training within that heat level.

Finally, virtually all of this can be found within the Garmin Connect Mobile and Garmin Connect apps. You can dive into bits like Training Status and Training Effect, where the colors match back up to what you see on the watch:

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Same goes for Training Load too:

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One of the common complaints that I see about Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile is that it’s not ‘deep enough’. Honestly, I don’t think that’s valid anymore. Nobody offers as much detail into your metrics as Garmin. Polar and Suunto don’t even come close anymore. However, what Polar tends to do better than Garmin is make these metrics more clear on the main dashboards. Whereas within Garmin you legit need to spend some time figuring out where everything is within Garmin Connect Mobile to make sense of it all. Suunto, of course, is shutting down Movescount next year in favor of their more basic ‘Suunto’ platform, so they need not apply anymore here when it comes to advanced metrics via app/web.

In any case, while I promised PacePro in this section, I’ve decided it deserved its own section. Partially because this section is already too big. And partially because I want to be able to link to the PacePro bits later on more quickly/easily.

PacePro for Running:

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No, PacePro is not grade adjusted pace – despite how many times people keep writing it. In fact, it’s both much simpler, and much more powerful than that. It takes the concept of pace bands that any marathoner is undoubtedly familiar with and makes it all electronic. But even more than that, it automatically calculates each split (miles or kilometers) based on the elevation profile of the course you’re doing. In turn, you then get individual split targets for each mile raced.

But wait, we’re not done yet. Atop all that, you’ve got two specific levers to tweak: Intensity of hills (how hard you run them), and then whether you positive or negative split the race/course – and to what extent. Don’t worry, I’ll demo all this.

So to start, this feature is available on both the Pro and non-Pro Fenix 6 models. However, if using it on the non-Pro models, you’ll need to have the course already created (so it has access to the elevation data). Whereas on the Pro models you can actually create a course on the fly on a watch, and then execute a PacePro strategy upon it from the watch. I suspect though that 99.99% of you, no matter which version you have, will be creating courses online and sending them to your device.

Note that when doing it from the watch (versus Garmin Connect Mobile), you can’t adjust the various sliders that you see down below. As such, I’d really just recommend doing it from the app and sending it to your watch to execute.

First, you start off in the area to choose/create a course, and you’ll see the ability to choose PacePro. From there you’re given the option to load a course or not:

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Technically speaking you don’t even need to load a course. You can simply use an assumed flat course profile and then do positive/negative splits based on a given time goal or pace goal. Which gets us to the next bit – choosing that goal. You can tweak this later easily if you want, but you need to choose either a time or pace goal. In my case I set up a loop around NYC’s Central Park and went with a sub-7/mile pace goal. Knowing I’d be coming off a transatlantic flight and running this 90 minutes later, I kept things civilized:

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Next, you’ll be brought to this screen that shows the course profile with color coding on it. You can expand this and zoom in however you’d like:

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But the real magic happens down below. That’s where you can dork with two levers. The first one adjusts whether you want to positive or negative split the course (meaning, get faster over the course, or fade over the course). And the second one adjusts how hard you run the hills.  As you adjust those sliders, you’ll see that both the split targets down below change, as well as the split targets over the elevation up above:

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It’s frankly kinda fun to play with this. You can do it all day long. Once you’re done, you’ll send this to your watch and it’ll sync via Bluetooth Smart.

Also of note – is that you can create the ‘splits’ based not just on per-mile or per-kilometer, but per elevation changes. So you can divide them up between downhill sections vs uphill sections vs flats, etc… Which frankly, makes a lot of sense.

Next, back on your watch you’ll go to the running activity and load the PacePro strategy up. These actually are files similar to course/workout files that you’ll find on your watch (for those geeks in the house). On the watch it’ll show you some of the stats for that PacePro session:

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And then, off you go (once you press start). The watch will then show your target pace (7:00) on the top line, followed by your current pace for that split on the second line (6:35). You can see here I’m overachieving (hey, I’m still getting used to trusting a watch on pacing like this):

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Then down below you’ve got distance remaining (0.75) in that lap (either 1 kilometer or 1 mile depending on how you’ve set it up), and then below that you’ve got whether or not you’re ahead or behind for the entire race, and by how much (-0:07).

What’s notable here is is that it locks to your GPS location on the predefined course (think of it like a train track, or roller coaster ride), rather than your watch distance the GPS has measured. This has its pros and cons.

On the plus side, this means that if your GPS accuracy goes to crap (such as with a tunnel, or just life in general), then it doesn’t impact PacePro. That’s really really cool, and is considerably different than something like Virtual Partner or any other pacing functionality. On the downside though, if there’s a difference between the route/course you created in Garmin Connect (or wherever) and the course that you’re running – then you’re up crap-creek. That could happen if either there’s a change on race day due to some road scenario, or if the route you created on GC has unnoticed anomalies in it.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened to me with my NYC Central Park course. I thought I had created a loop around the main road, but upon closer inspection at numerous points along the route the Garmin Connect course creator took short detours. Often only 50-150 meters each, but there was a pile of them, usually just briefly to nearby sidewalks and back. But they added up – and they’re virtually impossible to see unless you zoom way in.

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In talking with Garmin, they’re digging into why (on what is arguably the world’s most popular running loop), it repeatedly forces you off the loop onto random detours. In doing some course creation elsewhere this doesn’t appear to be an issue. I suspect the extreme density of heat map (popularity) data Garmin has for Central Park is ironically its downfall here. So just a word of caution – triple-check your course routes/maps.

In any event, that issue aside, the entire functionality of it worked awesomely on the watch itself. It was surprisingly motivating to just focus on a single lap, but more importantly – getting different splits each time. It took my mind off of the larger prize, and had my brain focus on one thing at a time. Well done.

Garmin says they’re bringing this to other devices in the future, but hasn’t specified which existing devices will get it (likely the Forerunner 945, MARQ, and perhaps Forerunner 245).

Maps, Navigation, and ClimbPro:

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Garmin’s added some new functionality in the mapping and navigation arena. I’m going to tackle it two ways. First, I’m going to straight-up talk about map themes and popularity data (heatmaps). And then I’m going to show you how the remaining functionality works on a test hike.

Within the Fenix 6 series Garmin has introduced the concept of ‘Map Themes’, which allow you to change the styling of the map in real-time. For example you can go from the default styling to a night styling. Or to a high contrast styling. Or even a marine-focused one. To do so, you’ll go into the sport mode settings (for whichever sport you want) and then under map, go to ‘Map Themes’. To say this feature is buried would be the understatement of the review.

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Once in there you can simply toggle between the different maps. This is also where you’ll find the new ski resort map functionality as well as popularity routing overlays.

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Here’s an example of high contrast:

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The popularity routing is also new here. Previously on the Fenix 5 Plus series Garmin baked in their ‘Trendline Popularity’ data, which is basically the culmination of millions of activities on Garmin Connect. Essentially heatmap data. But you couldn’t actually see the ‘heat’, it was just data under the covers that the unit would route you on. Now however, you can see the purple heat.

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It’s organized by sport type. So running vs cycling, etc… But it’s also not quite that simple either. See, it’s also displayed on the nuance of hiking versus running. I see that as a bit of a challenge, and it was super obvious in the area around Chamonix. When I used the ‘hiking’ data sets, almost nothing was visible. Whereas when I used running, there was tons of data. This is likely because most Garmin users would just default to using run no matter what for such activities.  The other challenge is that the zoom levels make the feature semi-useless. I can’t zoom more than 0.5mi out (on scale). So basically I can see where people are running down to the end of the street, but not beyond that. I can’t really get the full picture.

Again, these are things Garmin should be able to solve. I’m happy to wait while it loads the tiles for that larger map area. It’s certainly better than trying to zoom around like a drunk idiot.

In any event you can also overlay the ski resorts mode too – which shows you ski lifts and ski runs from some 2,000 resorts around the world, including the ones I was at. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to see in this photo.

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With all that set, let’s go to loading up a course and get hiking. In my case, I just created my course on Garmin Connect. That allowed me to validate against the popularity data more easily. You can do the same these days on Garmin Connect Mobile (smartphone app) as well, though it continues to be a bit clumsy (but is faster than before).

When you load a course you’ll get all the details for it, including most notably ClimbPro.

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ClimbPro isn’t new here, that came last year. But what is new is that it’ll start showing you coloring just like the Edge 530/830/1030 do, with the steeper gradient colored more painfully than the lesser gradients. Like this:

Oh, you wanted a picture on the Fenix 6 series? Unfortunately, the feature isn’t done yet, and is expected for release sometime here soonish. Until then, you’ll get the single-tone coloring. Which is still super helpful:

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As you start your course you’ll see the map view, and then get little chirps each time you’re coming up on a turn in the trail. It’ll show you exactly what you’re supposed to do and the distance to do it. Even on the steep 20% switchbacks in the Alps it was astoundingly accurate.

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The only time I got screwed up was when there was a four-way intersection the middle of nowhere and the posted signs were temporary, and pointed kinda-sorta the wrong way. So I basically ended up trying all paths until the Fenix 6 stopped telling me I had gone the wrong way:

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But largely, I lived in ClimbPro. With thousands of feet of elevation gain for each climb, I used that as my metric for how quickly I was ascending and how close I was to the top. It continues to be my favorite feature when hiking.

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The remainder of the navigation and related features haven’t changed much with the Fenix 6 (from the Fenix 5). And honestly, within that most of those haven’t changed in a few years either. Keep in mind that features that depend on mapping will depend on having the Pro variant. However, not always.

For example, you can use ClimbPro just fine on the base models. But you need to have the course created first on Garmin Connect so it sends the elevation data to the Fenix 6 base. On the flip-side, it won’t re-route you on trails when you get off-course, because it doesn’t have the trails like the Pro models have. Similarly, you won’t get any of the map themes, because there are no maps.

And finally, like numerous other Garmin devices, it’s still super clunky to buy and install maps on the Fenix 6 series and requires a computer. Though, the pricing is better these days (down to $20/map in some cases). Or, you can just use my guide to download free maps here. However, I’d really like to see Garmin make this totally idiot-proof and just allow you to either buy or download maps from within the Garmin Connect Mobile app, and leverage WiFi to install them. Remember that maps only are included for your region of purchase. So for USA folks that’s North America, for Europe folks that’s all of Europe, and for Australia folks that’s all of AUZ/NZ. Beyond that, you’ll need to triple-check the exact region coverage.

How Solar Works, and Power Modes:

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I’ve separated out this entire section from the rest of the review – mainly because it’s such a new and interesting concept that for this review I think it makes sense for it to have a dedicated chunk. The solar feature is only available on the Fenix 6X Solar, and not on any other units. This falls in line with Garmin piloting new technologies on the Fenix ‘X’ series each year. The first year (Fenix 5X) it added maps when the rest of the series didn’t have it. Last year (Fenix 5X Plus) it added PulseOX, a first on Garmin devices. And this year, it’s solar.

However, the new Power Modes and Power Management features are available on all units, yes, all Fenix 6 units.

We’ll start on the Fenix 6X Solar though. So let’s dive into it a bit. On the Fenix 6X Solar you’ll notice a very thin 1mm wide strip just on the inside of the bezel. This is the first of two solar pieces.

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This thin strip has 100% photovoltaic levels, meaning, it’s receiving 100% of the sun’s goodness and turning that into solar power. It’s also clearly visible in bright light, though you’d just assume it was a bezel design element. Inside without bright light, this strip almost disappears and blends into the bezel.

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However, there’s a second solar panel you can’t see – despite being the entire display face. Under the display is another solar panel that has a 10% photovoltaic level. This panel is of course far larger than that of the thin bezel strip, but is also getting 10% of the sun’s rays, due to the display blocking much of it. Importantly though, both panels are fully under a single sheet of Gorilla Glass (specifically Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with DX Coating). Meaning, you won’t accidentally scratch the bezel solar panel anymore than you’d normally scratch your watch face.

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Speaking of that watch face, you’ll notice that there’s a little sun atop the default watch face. That sun is actually showing you the current intensity level. Around the edge of the little sun are 10 pieces, each indicating 10% of full intensity. So if you look at the below picture you’ll see the sun is coming in at 0% intensity as I’m in the shade:

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Next, another phone out in some broken clouds conditions and you can see it’s at about 70%

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And here’s another at 100% intensity, with all lines lit up as well as the sun itself:

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The goal of the solar here isn’t to fully power the watch, under GPS or otherwise. Instead, it’s to provide incremental battery life. Garmin notes this in their super-detailed battery life chart. Note specifically the assumption of 3 hours per day of solar light at a pretty high intensity (full sun basically). That goes both ways though. If you’re mid-summer and spending the day at the beach (or workout side), then you’ll way overachieve here. Versus if it’s mid-winter and you’re indoors…then not so much.

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Here’s the basic main takeaways though:

A) If you’re spending 3+ hours outdoors you might be able to pull off something close to battery neutral in a pared down configuration (not much notifications/etc…).
B) While outdoors on longer hikes, solar will definitely extend your battery life, potentially a lot

In fact, I did a bit of battery comparisons between the Fenix 6X Solar and the Fenix 6 side by side on my longer hikes, plotting the battery life. For the most part these watches were configured equal. However, what’s notable is cases where I’m below the tree-line in the trees, you can see battery burn is about equal, but once I clear the tree-line (around 1hr 30 marker), and am back into the sun, battery life burn on the 6X Solar slows. Pretty cool.

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By the way, those battery charts are with the DCR Analyzer. We plot battery life for devices that support writing it to the files, including Garmin, Wahoo, and soon Stages. Also note that in the case of the above, I was shooting photos and using maps extensively (though equally) on both devices. Your actual burn rates will likely be better.

Sure, this is only on the Fenix 6X Solar, but make no mistake – this is Garmin’s testbed. And like previous years, I don’t expect it to take long for the feature (hardware addition) to migrate to other units. After all, Garmin announced today the acquisition of technologies from French company SunPartner Technologies. Garmin actually quietly made that acquisition a long while ago, back when the company filed for insolvency, and you can see hints at this in some French news stories (and even see the judgements within the French Société system). Garmin has said that they expect this technology to expand to other devices where it makes sense (meaning, probably not a $75 Vivofit band).

Ok, let’s shift to the next bit of power and battery features, which is the new power modes. These are similar to what Suunto introduced within the Suunto 9 last year, and have pre-defined battery setups that show you how many hours you’ll get in that given configuration:

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These can be changed at the outset of an activity, as well as mid-activity.

What’s really cool though is going into Power Manager and creating your own configurations. This allows you to tweak the battery burn profile based on which features you want enabled or disabled. And it’ll actually tell you exactly how many hours it’ll save (or cost you) to make that setting change:

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Next, there’s the new low power battery mode, called Battery Saver. This follows in the footsteps of Casio, whereby they basically shut down almost all watch functions in exchange for the watch face remaining with the time – getting you months of battery life. The same is true here:

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Once you enable the low power battery mode virtually everything is disabled: Optical heart rate, Bluetooth phone connectivity, external ANT+ sensors, and even the display itself goes into a low-power mode where it uses a custom watch face that doesn’t show seconds. When you ask yourself whether something is disabled in this mode – the answer is ‘yes’. Though, it only takes a single button press and you’re ready to start a run with GPS as normal (or, with your own custom battery mode):

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Finally, while not directly a power management feature, Garmin has ported over the ‘Expedition’ sport mode from the MARQ Expedition series. This functionality allows you to get upwards of 56 days of GPS track points on a single battery charge with the 6X Solar. In this mode it’ll go into a lower power state, but then every hour will wake itself up and take a GPS fix before going back into the low-power state.

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It’s an interesting concept, but I do wonder how often (if ever) someone would actually use that in 2019. I’d think most people have access to battery packs and such that it’s unlikely that you’d really need 56 days of GPS tracks without some means to charge the unit.  In any case – Garmin is clearly investing in longer life options for users within the Fenix 6 series. It’s not just one feature, but a whole pile of prongs in the fire on ways you can get crazy long battery life if you need it.

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 6 series workouts).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack (which I did do here in the Alps).  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 of Fenix 6 testing.  This has included runs, hikes, swims, and rides in: Amsterdam (Netherlands), New York City (USA), and around Chamonix in the French Alps (France/Switzerland border). I’ve probably forgotten some other trips too, it’s been kinda crazy lately.

First up we’ll start with a run around NYC’s Central Park, this is the full loop, and one I was using PacePro for. It is compared to the Suunto 9 and the Garmin Forerunner 935. Here’s the full data set:

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Obviously, at a high level things look clean – no drunk uncle moments. So let’s dig a wee bit deeper, starting at the beginning. I know it’s a bit tougher to see the lines in satellite mode, but it’s worth it.

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I’m on the inside edge of the roadway, on the usual Central Park runners lane. In this case, the Fenix 6X nails it. Note that all units had about 5-7 minutes to acquire GPS as I walked from the hotel to the starting line, including the Suunto 9. Though, the Suunto 9 was quickly off over in the woods. All units were configured the same in terms of GPS recording rates.

Now a bit around the next corner the Fenix 6X Pro Solar was feeling slightly left out of the tree adventures, so it too went tree-surfing. Slightly less than the Suunto 9 did, but still off-path. Perhaps 3-4 meters offset.

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In fact, it’s a tit for tat pattern we’d see repeat itself throughout the run. The Suunto 9 or Fenix 6X Solar would undercut or overreach around a turn, and then the next turn the other would do it. Neither would do so drastically, but just enough that you’d notice.

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And the above back and forth bits prove why I don’t typically use final distances, you can undercut and then overshoot easily – and still end up with similar distances. If we assume the FR935 was the best track (and it was), you can see that it was only .06KM different on 10KM than the Fenix 6X Solar. The Suunto 9 had overshot considerably, at 10.22KM.

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In the event you want to dig into another NYC run, I’ve got this one here on the DCR Analyzer. The Fenix 6 did struggle a bit to stay on the path, but did better than the FR935 once I got into the main building portion of the city.

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Next, let’s shift gears up to the French Alps for some high altitude GPS tracking. I did three days of these, and by and large the tracks were fantastic across the Fenix 6 devices. On all days I was wearing both a Fenix 6 Pro and a Fenix 6X Pro (one per wrist). First, let’s look at a track up to a glacier, starting with steep switchback in pretty heavy forest/woods. Here’s that data set:

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At a high level, things look pretty good. No massive errant issues. But let’s zoom deep into the woods and switchbacks:

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At the beginning here, none of the units are exactly perfect. Though interestingly, when I look at the trail map as I’m going up, they’re very very close on the device itself.

Once I get beyond the first few minutes, things settle out a bit and they track fairly close to each other:

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This next set of switchbacks is largely pretty good as well. Differences between the devices of course – but nothing outlandish.

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And again higher up. Slight differences – but we’re really only talking a couple of meters between the tracks.

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This continues like this for the rest of the track.

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Seriously, look at how good/close these tracks are – from all the watches for that matter.

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I’ll add in within a few minutes a few more tracks from the Alps for you to poke out – though as a spoiler – they’re all the same – astoundingly good (better than NYC).

Next, let’s go to Amsterdam for some cycling. For this ride, I was out on country and farm roads, with some initial city bits, and then mostly farmland. GPS-wise it’s not a hard route per se, but I do see units occasionally screw it up. I’m comparing it against the Edge 530 and Polar Vantage V. Here’s that data set:

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As I go through some initial city sections, the tracks are locked on very tight – no issues here:

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And again the same as I’m out passing a small village:

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Seriously, it’s boringly perfect:

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Hopping back over across the pond for another cycling jaunt, this one will be quick and easy. It’s not a ‘real ride’ per se, but rather just a NYC bike share bike. But I wanted to show it because it’s astounding. This was a simple commute across the heart of NYC, and the GPS track is astoundingly good. Things wobbled for the first block or two, but then it’s locked onto the road. There’s no need for comparison shots here, we can just look at the map and see it’s locked perfect on the road I’m on. I’m impressed:

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Finally, we’ll round things out on an openwater swim from yesterday. Now mind you, I’ve been hyper-critical of Garmin’s openwater swim functionality in 2019 (and even back to 2018). It’s just sucked. Almost all of the newer devices would fail at some point in the swim, ceasing to track – sometimes even after just a few dozen yards. Garmin started digging into the issue back in June, formed a bunch of special committees on it, and has thrown countless employees into the water over the summer to try and fix it, alongside their GPS chipset providers Sony and MediaTek. Progress has been made though, both in public betas and private ones.

While Garmin isn’t saying it’s perfect, they did note in a call a week or so ago that on the last beta firmware they were testing they’ve successfully completed over 100 openwater swims without a single drop (mind you, I could barely go 1-2 swims without a failure back earlier this summer).

Still, with that in mind and all my travel – I’ve only gotten in a single openwater swim. Statically speaking that’s not as much as I’d like for this feature. So perhaps I just got lucky. In any case, my swim from yesterday:

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The reference track is near-identical. In fact, actually two reference tracks just for the eff of it. If this is the quality of GPS tracks going forward with the latest GPS firmware for openwater swim, I’m pretty damn happy. Of course, this was also a relatively straightforward giant box of a route. But still, gotta start somewhere.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a GPS openwater swim track as good at this before from *any* watch, ever. It’s seriously impressive.

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There’s an itty tiny bit at the first turn where it cuts by perhaps a couple meters – but that’s it. Note that I did not stop at any point during this swim, I kept moving the entire time.

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But again, pretty solid stuff here for swimming. Hopefully my future swims continue that way.

So overall in terms of GPS accuracy, it’s mostly good. I found it excellent up in the high alpine and mountains of the French Alps – frankly, doing incredibly well in some really tough conditions, especially up against sharp cliffs or in the denser woods down lower.

On the flip side, I did see some struggles in NYC’s Central Park – where the older Forerunner 935 has no meaningful issues. Certainly Garmin has made great strides with the Sony chipset they’ve used on all new 2019 devices, but it’s not quite perfect yet. But I think for the vast majority of people it’ll be acceptable (or better).

(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:

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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 usual 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 so on.

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 Garmin HRM-DUAL or Wahoo TICKR X), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (primarily the Polar OH1+ these days, but also occasionally Wahoo TICKR FIT or Scosche 24 too).  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.

First, let’s start and see how it handles steady-state running. This was a run from two days ago – pretty easy and straightforward around Central Park before rushing to the airport to catch a flight. It’s compared against a Garmin HRM-DUAL and Fitbit Versa 2 optical HR sensor. Here’s that set.

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Well, that was boring. Everyone basically agreed. A few minor bobbles at what point around the 32-minute marker for a second here or there with the Fenix 6X Solar being a couple beats higher, but it was pretty transient. Again, kinda a boring set. But hey, sometimes boring is good!

Next, we’ve got a much more intense run, albeit also around Central Park. This was using PacePro as my base, so it was more or less full throttle the entire time. Here’s that set.

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You can see right out of the gate the Fenix 6X Solar is having a couple of issues with locking onto the HR. It’s plausible that me taking some early photos didn’t help, though I think that might be generous at best.

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However, by the 3-minute marker the units are mostly aligned – and stay that way for the remainder of the run. That said, things are a bit wobbly on this run from all units – perhaps due to the intensity, or perhaps because post-flight I felt like I was dying trying to hit the PacePro targets. Either way, even the OH1 Plus seems a bit more wobbly than I’m used to (though, it’s clearly the best of the bunch):

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The above is one of those graphs that looks bad from afar, but we’re only talking about a 1-3bpm difference between the different units. It’s just the zoomed in factor that doesn’t help much.

Next, let’s shift to some cycling and heading outside for a ride, this one on mostly good pavement on a fairly warm night. In general the warmer the weather the better optical HR sensors will do. Here’s that set:

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Now I’ve crossed out two chunks in yellow. Those are bits where I was stopped on the side of the road not riding, filming something – thus, who knows what funk I was doing then (setting up tripods and such).

However, the rest of the ride is actually surprisingly good by all players. Honestly, one of the better HR performances I’ve seen recently. For example, this first section:

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I see a little bit of lag difference between the Garmin sensors and the Polar sensors here. But it’s not possible to know whether that’s real lag or just bad timing on one GPS time clock or the other. However if you look closely you can see that there are cases where the Garmin Fenix 6X Solar and the HRM-DUAL track very closely during some momentary recovery bits, whereas the Polar sensors somewhat unexpectedly miss them.

Again, outdoor cycling continues to be one of the hardest things for wrist-based optical HR sensors to get right. And in this case, things aren’t horrific. Yet, there are still some bobbles, like later towards the end of the ride when the Fenix 6X Solar does some odd spikes:

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Finally, what about swimming HR with the optical HR sensor? Well, I took out the unit yesterday for an openwater swim and a Polar OH-1 sensor. Here’s that overlay:

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OK then. So…

Yeah, I’m not really sure who’s correct there. But I can say that they don’t match. Winking smile Historically speaking I’ve had pretty good luck with the Polar OH1/OH1Plus, so if I had to take a stab here, my guess would be it was correct. Or, it could be wrong.

However, they do roughly trend higher, so there’s that. Ultimately, I’ve never found heart rate while swimming super helpful, in part because of how much it lags compared to running or cycling. Still, at least it’s an option I guess.

For swimming, I’d agree with Garmin/Suunto/Polar that when it comes to optical HR sensor, that it’s going to be a ‘YMMV’ (Your Mileage May Vary) type of situation. All three companies have said as such in my discussions with them, and it can depend on numerous factors from positioning to the exact swim stroke you’re using. So definitely do a bit of your own testing to see how well things hold up in the water over multiple sessions (both pool and openwater) before you decide if it works for you.

Ultimately, the performance I see on both the Fenix 6X Solar and 6 is pretty much the same as what I saw on the MARQ series before it – mostly OK in many scenarios, but still some gaps in certain scenarios. It’s not usually as easy as saying that it’ll fail in intervals or high intensity, as I’ve had plenty of cases where it works just fine there. Sometimes it’s just a case of some unknown quirk that gets things distracted.

Product Comparison Tool:

I’ve added the Garmin Fenix 6 Series into the product comparison tool. While I could have added separate line items for each individual SKU/model, that’d get messy pretty quick. So I just noted where certain specs were different on a given metric. For the below chart I’ve compared it against the Fenix 5 Plus series, as well as the Polar Vantage V, and the Suunto 9. I could have tossed in the Forerunner 945, though frankly the only differences you’ll see between the Fenix 6 and the Forerunner 945 once all the firmware updates are done should be mainly materials (though, exact nuances may differ in some software features – that’s a bit TBD). Of course, you can make your own charts here in the product comparison calculator.

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 15th, 2019 @ 8:21 amNew Window
Price$599-$1,149$699/699EUR$599/599EUR$499$599 (non-baro is $499)
Product Announcement DateAug 29th, 2019June 17th, 2018Apr 30th, 2019Sept 13th, 2018June 5th, 2018
Actual Availability/Shipping DateAug 29th, 2019June 17th, 2018Early May 2019Late October 2018June 26th, 2018
GPS Recording FunctionalityYes (with Galileo too)Yes (with Galileo too)Yes (with Galileo too)YesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi on Pro onlyUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 100mYes - 50mYes - 30mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)25hrs to 148hrs (depends on model)Up to 32hrs in GPS-on, up to 85hrs in UltraTrac GPS (varies by model)36hrs GPS, 60hrs UltraTracUp to 40 hoursUp to 120 Hours
Recording Interval1S or Smart1S or Smart1S or Smart1sVariable
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYesYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreatGreatGreat
AlertsVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualSound/Visual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYEsYEsYEsNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Can control phone musicYesYesYesNoNo
Has music storage and playbackYes (Pro Only)YesYesNoNo
Streaming ServicesiHeartRadio, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon (Pro Only)Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadioSpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadioNoNo
PaymentsGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesYesYesNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesFeb 2019Yes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesNoNo
Group trackingYesYesYesNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)Yes (via phone)NoYes (via phone)NoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYesYesNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceYesYesYesTBD Future UpdateNo
Crash detectionYesNoYesNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesYesYesYes
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)WITH RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)NoNo
Running PowerWith extra sensorWith extra sensorWith extra sensoryes (built-in)With extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationYEsYEsYEsYesYes
Race PredictorYes, plus PaceProYesYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorYesYesYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYesNoNo
SwimmingGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYEsYEsYEsYesYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterYes (with optical HR or HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM)WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)YesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YEsYEsYEsYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeYesYesYesNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNo (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No (it'll show rest time afterwards though)YesNo
Change pool sizeYEsYEsYEsYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths14M/15Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M20M/Y to 250 m/y15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYesyes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYesN/ANo
TriathlonGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Designed for triathlonYesYesYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYEsYEsYEsNoYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureYEsYEsYEsNo (but can give out of zone alerts)No
Virtual Racer FeatureYesYesYesNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesYesNoNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataYesYesYesNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)YesYesYesNoNo
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinatesNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesNoNo
NavigateGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesYesNoYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYesNoYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)Yes (Pro Only)YesYesNoNo
Back to startYesYesYesFeb 2019Yes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationYes (Pro Only)YesYesNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYesNoYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagneticN/AMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)YesFenix 5X Plus onlyYesNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)NoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)YesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)YesYesYesNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingYesYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYEsYEsYEsYesYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesYesNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsYesYesYesN/A-
SoftwareGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectPolar FlowSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/AndroidiOS /Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLinkN/A
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix 6 SeriesGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 945Polar Vantage VSuunto 9 Baro
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again, don’t forget you can make your own product comparison charts here with all the products in the database.

Summary:

DSC_5911

The Fenix 6 is more or less the next Fenix version we expected was coming. No, not because of all the leaks – but simply because Garmin declined to add in the new Forerunner 945 features into the Fenix 5 Plus back this past spring. On one hand, none of these features are earth shattering – yet almost all of them gel together really well. Like the Forerunner 945 before it, we’re starting to see Garmin really differentiate itself from the pack in terms of physio focused features, but also even just more practical things like battery life and ease of use (understanding the impacts of battery choices).

The other thing that this release does is close the gap between the release cycles of the high-end Garmin Forerunner series (FR945) and the high-end Fenix series. Previously that timeframe was upwards of a year or more. Now we’re down to about 4-5 months. It behooves Garmin to get these as close as possible so that people are making decisions not so much on features (which would mostly be the same), but on material and styling choices. Rather than have someone buy a FR945 and then realized they could have gotten a swankier Fenix 6 just a few months later.

In any event, the Fenix 6 production units I’ve been testing have been largely good, but not perfect. There are still occasional quirks that either are transient (such as slow syncing on one unit, but not the other), and of course some GPS oddities in New York City specifically. Plus of course the Garmin Connect driven map creations issues I saw that flowed downhill into my PacePro experience. But on the whole, things are pretty good for a product that starts shipping globally today. Undoubtedly, as more people get on it and find more edge cases – there will be bugs. And realistically it’ll probably take a few months for those bugs to sort themselves out. But I’ve been using it as my primary watch the last little while without issue. Almost all of the uploads you see on my Strava are from it.

Finally – I’m super interested to see where Garmin takes their acquired solar technology. Not just in terms of to other devices, but on how to expand the amount of solar energy it can return to the watch. Undoubtedly with the Fenix 6X Solar they started off pretty cautiously on numerous fronts, so I expect as they gain the experiences of thousands of real-life people, they’ll have learnings and tweaks they can apply going forward to newer devices.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

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

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Note: Clever Training USA has stock of most of the Fenix 6 series already (to ship out today), Clever Training UK is expected to receive stock today and tomorrow for a number of models.

Garmin Fenix 6 Series (select drop-down for triathlon bundle)
Garmin Fenix 6 Series (EU/UK readers – don’t forget to use Europe coupon code DCR10BTF to save 10%)
Garmin Speed/Cadence Sensors (new ANT+/Bluetooth Smart ones – review here)
Garmin HRM-DUAL (new ANT+/Bluetooth HR strap – review here)
Garmin HRM-TRI (triathlon-focused swim strap – review here)
Garmin HRM-SWIM (indoor-swimming focused swim strap – review here)

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.

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1,181 Comments

  1. Just came across the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) issue ….

    Means I can’t easily manage things on my new Fenix 6XS with my Mac.

    I’m very used to just connecting any Garmin GPS to my Mac and adding maps, routes, etc via USB. BaseCamp works really well to manage stored waypoints and things. For example, my new Garmin Edge 830 works fine, as expected.

    I know there is a workaround with the Google ‘Android File Transfer’ app, I could even use PC emulation. But why have Garmin gone for a proprietry protocol instead of staying with an open standard. Why not at least support both and make them switchable?

    Garmin UK support initially told me it should mount ok on my Mac. A second call revealed the true issue in that the designers had decided to exclude Mac users. The guy told me to ‘just use a PC’. Lovely, thanks Garmin!

    Returning my 2 day old watch for a refund today….

    • Honestly you should just install the utility, you’ll find over time that other devices uses it as well. The main reason Garmin uses MTP is that it enables music apps to more correctly identify it for transferring content to it as a music device.

      I do agree it’d be nice to also use regular mass storage device file transfer, but ultimately that’d just increase support costs as people put things in the wrong modes.

      But given no other company even allows you to connect your watch for direct access at all, at least here you download a tiny pretty common/well understood utility and you’re done.

    • Keith Robertson

      Yes, I kind of agree! The only thing I’m not sure about is how to get waypoints saved on the watch back onto my desktop. I’m sure there will be a way. That’s one thing Basecamp is handy for, curating waypoints on the device, removing duplicates, archiving, etc. May have a go at putting a copy onto one of my Paralles images.

    • Hi Ray,

      Easily found the file on the fenix holding the waypoint data. I can just copy this to Basecamp on the Mac after dragging it to the desktop.

      Basecamp can then do all the stuff I need to do to organise things.Without live editing of the device, which is kind of neat in that mistakes can be corrected as the originals will be on the device until I’m happy.

      Will work the other way too. If I’m trip planning in say Scotland in Winter, I can build a handy set of waypoints, export as a single .gpx file and drop it into the ‘New Files folder.

      Job done!!

    • I’m actually very happy there’s no direct access, because that means there’s no way to read old data from the block device backing the storage. So wiping the device is very easy, and I can sell the watch without privacy concerns. MTP as far as I know only gives file access, so once a file is deleted, all good.

      On the Edge units, which work in direct mode, even after resetting the device, I can still find names of waypoints (and thus GPS coordinates, most likely) and addresses on the actual storage.

  2. Tim

    Has anybody tried the heathered nylon straps? I’m curious if they’re significantly more breathable than the standard silicone one which tends to give me heat rash when it’s really warm out. Are they really $50 more comfortable?

    • Keith

      On a direct mount device I use Basecamp al the time to edit waypoints and routes. It’s simple to delete everything if you want too. Assuming they are really gone of course!!

  3. Volker

    Hi Ray,

    btw climbPro like on edge 830 soonish for F6 series? News about that? Deleted?

  4. JR

    I got one of the quickfit nylon straps, but I returned it immediately, as it was incredibly stiff. I’m sure it would have loosened up, but for the price didn’t love it. I just went with a generic 2-piece nylon (“nato”) strap. It’s very comfortable, and it makes it look a little more like a real watch.

    • Tim

      Thanks JR. That’s something I was considering trying as well.

      Ideally, I’d like to have an elastic strap that can breathe and stretch as my wrist expands/contracts with the weather. I have some for my “dumb” watches and they are very comforable, but obviously since they are one-piece straps, they’d cover up the heart rate sensor. Erika’s Originals makes 2-piece straps for the Apple Watch though, so I put in a request for Garmin quickfit compatible ones just to see what’s possible.

  5. Nedim

    After playing with it a bit I feel the 6 is a real improvement on the 5/5 Pro. The screen is nicer and although the specs don’t show it, it seems to be less top heavy as well.

    Ray, any chance of seeing an actual weight comparison?

    That said, it’s buggy as can be. A route shows hills, importing into PacePro turns it flat. Or Garmin Pay says “phone not connected”, but it is and everything else works fine. Stuff like that, bugs left and right.

    Also, a major reason I got it, is PacePro. However, it is completely unclear to me what happens when the PacePro route is longer/shorter than the actual run. Example: Garmin route for marathon says 26.46 miles — actual distance is, well, 26.22. When I am at mile 20 — what will it actually tell me? Until stuff like this is solved, I am not sure this can be used effectively.

  6. Dmitry

    Hey, Ray, not sure if you are doing the 5k run in NYC tomorrow, if not, my watch is the 6x pro solar and the run is through the Battery Tunnel(under water for the majority of it). I can send the run log for you analyze how garmin is going to do. Let know.

  7. Matt

    The 6X Pro Solar has shown “available in 5 – 8 weeks” on Garmin, message unchanged for weeks. Any ideas when they’ll actually restock?

    I’d love to support you via CleverTraining, alas I have to order through Garmin’s site for my 25% discount. I understand Garmin restocks retailers before themselves, but the unchanged restock time is confusing.

    • My understanding is that the next ‘supply’ of 6X Solar units isn’t expected till late October, with another batch in November sometime.

      As for the Garmin.com “available in 5-8 weeks” message, I feel like the Garmin.com site has basically two options in their behind the scenes database for stock: “In-stock” and “Ships in 5-8 weeks”. I feel like it’s rare you ever see anything other than those two. Garmin uses the 5-8 weeks variant for cases where they’d probably rather write “Who knows, gonna be a while”, but figure that won’t go over well.

      Honestly, if it were me I’d probably just order from both and cancel when one ships.

    • Leandro Silva

      Hello,
      I’m also waiting to get some stock update on the 6X Pro Sapphire from CleverTraining, but it seems that most of the retails currently don’t have any exact estimate about when the stock will be updated. So, we’ve to wait… Of course, it’s a bit frustrating after a month of the release, not be able to buy it due to lack of stock.

  8. Gromov

    got the 6x Sapphire. went out on a mtb ride today but don’t see the Heat Acclimation stats. I didn’t wear the watch, and used external heart rate that I paired with the 6X mounted on the bar.

    Am I supposed to wear the watch for Heat Acclimation?

  9. Pacepro ultra running limitations……..

    The limits on using garmin connect of 14m/mile or a goal time of 11 hrs and change are pretty well known. Hopefully Garmin will update these to cater for longer ultra races.

    Setting a pacepro strategy on the watch from a course sent to it allows a work around, to an extent, but not an unlimited selection of time or pace, and one that changes according to the distance (for example I cant set a pace longer than 20m/mile for a 5 mile run but I can for a 45 mile run) Garmin has some sort of algorithm running here that sets the limits available. There seems to be an overall limit of 80 hrs unfortunately.

    The splits set for these longer runs seem to be based on elevation changes on the course as opposed to distance, which makes sense.

    Longer runs of over 100 miles dont seem to be catered for with this feature, the watch just sets an overall average pace based on the distance and your target time and fails to set any splits.

    Hopefully garmin has ultra runners in mind and develops pacepro accordingly.

  10. Nick

    User of 6X Sapphire from 1st Sep.
    Watch looks and feels amazing – but dear…those software bugs….

    I am swimming regularly – but 6X does not record swimming activity in daily calories! (this worked on FR935)
    (calories are my daily check of activities – there is not stepcounting in pool)
    Issue is not even commented by Garmin on the forums – and support team acknowledges it but does not know when it will be resolved….

    And we are speaking about super basic functionality that existed – and was ruined…. Never seen such a bad quality control in my life…

  11. Kyle Pieters

    Hey Ray. Thanks for the amazing review. Any idea why the 6X solar uses gorilla glass rather than the Sapphire crystal?

  12. Frederic

    “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!”

    I know you repeat that sentence over and over for each of your review but I believe you’re missing the point.
    GPS accuracy IS and SHOULD be very important.

    As a quick example, it can make or break a record. See here as a good example :link to athleticsillustrated.com
    Maybe Jornet’s record (and other records for that matter) would have not been in doubt if GPS accuracy would have been met ?

    • That sentenance is meant to be a joke.

      Given I devote an entire section in every review to GPS accuracy, and given it’s typically a make a break item in my reviews for devices, it’s pretty clear I think GPS accuracy is and should be important.

    • Frederic

      thanks for the clarification, I wanted to make sure to specify that accuracy is important for good reasons and not just to draw shark heads on the map ;-)

  13. Travis

    Can you create a custom label for alarm on 6xpro saphire.
    I want to have a few that have my labels not default ones

  14. Henry

    Hi, I would like to know if the solar 6x’s screen is slightly smaller than the normal 6x, or is the black outside strip now smaller because of the solar strip?
    Thanks

  15. Leandro Silva

    Hi Ray,
    Sorry to bother you again with this question, but do you have any inside information from CT UK about the stock availability on the 6X Pro Sapphire units? In their website, is stuck on ‘Expected Late September’. If I’m not wrong is Garmin defines with the retailers the number of units sent, so they ‘should’ know when the units will arrive, right?
    Thanks!

  16. Can I use a quick release kit to mount it on my bike, like my Forerunner 935XT?
    I’m looking to buy either Fenix 6 Pro or Forerunner 945.

    Thanks!
    Bart

  17. SP

    I am curious about battery replacement. I have an ionic that was replaced under warranty when first battery died. I was at first thinking vivoactive, but it seems that the Fenix series can actually be unscrewed and have battery replaced. If you could comment on that or reach out to garmin that would be good info. Spending $1k on a watch to throw it away when battery dies seems excessive to me.

  18. anastasiadis panagiotis

    Hello i would like to know if the use of the maps and the navigation of a preloaded course-race will increase the battery consumption,want to upload a 100 mile race and navigate the entire race will it affect dramatically the battery performance?last question can anyone tell me with accuracy how much hours of gps u get in normal mode with a chest heart sensor and everything else turned off??Ok lot of questions thank u : ))

  19. Ameya K.

    Hi, Thanks for the review. I use a stryd footpod (swear by it) with my Fenix 3 and the sync up is flawless. I had read some negative reviews (admitted by Stryd) on compatibility issues b/w the Fenix 5 & Stryd. Would you be aware if this is sorted with the Fenix 6? I want the Stryd – watch interface to be flawless. Thank you.

    • The Fenix 5 related issues were specific to the Fenix 5, and Garmin solved it in the Fenix 5 Plus in June 2018. I don’t believe anyone has reported Stryd issues in the Fenix 6.

  20. andrei

    Hello, what about auto activity detection for walking, running, biking, etc? For those times you are walking for longer than 5min for instance. It’s the tracking detailed or very basic? My old Fenix 3 hr could detect a few, but was very basic. Thank you.

  21. It seems like there’s more hiccups with the Fenix 6 launch than usually associated with an updated/upgraded watch. It’s stuff I’d expect have been worked out a few models ago, like the Pulse OX sensor issues, the differences in backlight/colors, and various other quality-related complaints on reddit (/r/garmin and /r/garminfenix).

    Have I just been watching the news too closely, hoping the 6X Pro Solar ship times would drop from 5-8 weeks, so I’m noticing complaints that are the usual? Or is there a broader product quality-control issue that’s perhaps driving the shipping delays? Across all F6 models both Garmin and retailers appear nearly-unavailable on lower-end models and indefinite backorder times on higher end (6X, Sapphire, Pro Solar) models?

    • Kristine

      I am wondering the same. I just cancelled my 6S order after waiting for over 3 weeks while promised ship time continues to increase.

    • Honestly, the issues with the Fenix 6 are pretty darn low compared to any past Garmin watches. By that watermark, almost non-existant.

      If you scroll upwards (meaning, most recent first) through the comments, you’ll find about 90-95% of comments are mostly just general questions – not issues.

      I think in general Reddit (no matter the topic within tech-specific forums) tends to probably twist a bit more towards issues than not. Nothing wrong with that, just sorta the reality.

      As for backorders, the only ones I know of volume issues are the Solar units, and nothing to do with technical problems – it sounds like some sort of component delay on manufacturing, along with simply guesstimating how many units people planned to order. As always, it’s a swag – sometimes you swag wrong.

  22. Robert

    Hi,

    I have a fenix 5s plus, and the things that bother me are:
    1. Poor battery life. e.g. last Sunday I started my activity with full battery and with Heart monitor disabled. 7.5hrs later it ran out of battery. Fortunately I was 200m from the end.
    2. No battery management info. I had contacted Garmin to request exactly the functions of power management utility, now I see that it won’t be in a fenix 5 plus update.
    3. Can’t configure screens using an app. It’s super fidgety to configure the watch using just the 5 buttons. It’s crazy that Garmin still haven’t made this possible using the app.
    4. Partial button lock to prevent accidental Stop. Without locking the watch it’s easy to accidentally stop the activity, e.g. against a glove. I can lock the watch, but then I can’t cycle through screens. I can’t find a way of changing the button combinations to stop an activity so that it requires a dual button press.

    It appears that the Fenix 6 addresses 1&2, I have no idea about 4.

    But you mention that Garmin will likely introduce the ability to configure the watch from an app. Based on the fact that Garmin didn’t update Fenix 5 plus with the power management utility, does that mean i’ll need to buy the Fenix 7 to get the ability to configure the watch from an app? Or is it likely that it will be rolled out for all their watches?
    Do you have any idea when this will happen?

    Thanks

    • Raul V.

      Manufacturers have very little idea of the practical needs of the users! While they come up with things that nobody asked for. That are mostly out of marketing ideas. To distinguish themselves from the competition. While simple, basic things are forgotten……

    • Wobby

      I am on my third Fenix 5+ because of battery issues. This one got me successfully through 12+ hour every second trail ultra events with 25%+ to spare.

  23. Brian Reiter

    I’ve run across a significant problem where Garmin MapInstall for Mac doesn’t reliably (mostly doesn’t work) with Garmin watches that support music. Even if you put the device into “Garmin Mode”, maps will mostly fail to transfer.

    The issue is that if you have maps in only in .gmap format for Base Camp (e.g. Africa TOPO maps from http://gmaptool.eu) and need to put .img format for the fenix, you need MapInstall to transpile from one format to the other. MapInstall will only transpile maps onto a Garmin device or an SD card. In the case of an SD card, it works best if there is a GarminDevice.xml file.

    My first quick and dirty solution was to copy the .img files I wanted from a fenix 5X to a fenix 5 plus over USB with a Windows VM. Later, I figured out that what you need for macOS to copy files over USB to Garmin that supports music is a Media Trasfer Protocol (MTP) client and the simplest one is Android File Transfer.

    A more long-term workaround that does not require a fenix 5x, is to mount a virtual SD card DMG file in macOS and have MapInstall send the maps to the virtual SD card. Then I can copy the .img files it created from the DMG in the Finder to the watch with Android File Transfer.

    Insructions for creating and mounting a virtual SD card in macOS.

    At the terminal use hdiutil to create a virtual SD card DMG. You have to use hdiutil because Disk Utility.app does not expose the functionality that you need.

    “`
    # this is a 16 gb file, you can make it whatever size you want
    hdiutil create -megabytes 16384 -fs MS-DOS -o fake-garmin-sd.dmg
    hdiutil attach -imagekey diskimage-class=CRawDiskImage fake-garmin-sd.dmg
    “`

    A NO NAME SD card should now be mounted and visible in the Finder side bar. You can rename and unmount it like any other disk. At this point, if you just double-click on the DMG file, Finder will mount it as an SD card again.

    Inside the root of your virtual SD, create a folder Garmin. Inside of Garmin create a GarminDevice.xml with these contents:

    006-B2604-00
    1420
    fenix Fake

    0000000000

    FITBinary

    FIT

    Garmin
    Device
    FIT

    InputOutput

    FIT_TYPE_2

    FIT

    Garmin/Settings
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_3

    FIT

    Garmin/Sports
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_4

    FIT

    Garmin/Activity
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT_TYPE_5

    FIT

    Garmin/Workouts
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_6

    FIT

    Garmin/Courses
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_7

    FIT

    Garmin/Schedule
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_8

    FIT

    Garmin/Location
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_10

    FIT

    Garmin/Totals
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT_TYPE_11

    FIT

    Garmin/Goals
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_29

    FIT

    Garmin/Records
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_34

    FIT

    Garmin/Segments
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_35

    FIT

    Garmin/Seg_List
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_33

    FIT

    Garmin/MltSport
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_32

    FIT

    Garmin/Monitor
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT_TYPE_40

    FIT

    Garmin/HMD
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_38

    FIT

    Garmin/Scorecards
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT_TYPE_37

    FIT

    Garmin/Clubs
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_39

    FIT

    Garmin/Adjustments
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_44

    FIT

    Garmin/Metrics
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_41

    FIT

    Garmin/ChngLog
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    FIT_TYPE_49

    FIT

    Garmin/Sleep
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT_TYPE_20

    FIT

    Garmin/SUMMARY
    FIT

    OutputFromUnit

    FIT

    Garmin/NewFiles
    FIT

    InputToUnit

    CustomMaps

    link to opengis.net
    link to schemas.opengis.net

    Garmin/CustomMaps
    KMZ

    InputOutput

    BirdsEye

    JNX

    Garmin/BirdsEye
    JNX

    InputOutput

    JNX 4

    Garmin/BirdsEye
    JNX

    InputOutput

    GPSData

    link to topografix.com
    link to topografix.com

    Garmin/NewFiles
    GPX

    InputToUnit

    NMaps

    IMG

    Garmin
    img

    InputOutput

    BaseMaps

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapbmap
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapprom
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps1

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapprom1
    img

    InputOutput

    SupplementalMaps

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapsupp
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps2

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapsup1
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps3

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapsup2
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps4

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapsup3
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedMaps5

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapcycle
    img

    InputOutput

    PreProgrammedDEMMaps

    IMG

    Garmin
    gmapdem
    img

    InputOutput

    NamedTrails

    NTRL

    Garmin/SQL
    db

    InputToUnit

    TranslatedText

    LN3

    Garmin/Text
    ln3

    InputOutput

    CustomPOI

    GPI0.0

    Garmin/POI
    gpi

    InputToUnit

    Safety_Cameras_PROM_Provider_1

    GPI

    Garmin/POI
    GPI

    InputToUnit

    WiFiConfiguration

    WIFI

    Garmin/WIFI
    OUT
    BIN

    OutputFromUnit

    WIFI

    Garmin/WIFI
    IN
    BIN

    InputToUnit

    EphemerisT1

    EphemerisT1

    /Garmin/RemoteSW
    EPO
    BIN

    InputToUnit

    ErrorShutdownReports

    ERR_RPT

    Garmin/Debug
    err_log
    txt

    OutputFromUnit

    IQWatchFaces

    PRG

    GARMIN/APPS
    PRG

    InputOutput

    IQDataFields

    PRG

    GARMIN/APPS
    PRG

    InputOutput

    IQWatchApps

    PRG

    GARMIN/APPS
    PRG

    InputOutput

    IQWidgets

    PRG

    GARMIN/APPS
    PRG

    InputOutput

    IQAppsConfiguration

    IQAppsConfiguration

    GARMIN/APPS
    OUT
    BIN

    OutputFromUnit

    IQAppsConfiguration

    GARMIN/APPS
    IN
    BIN

    InputToUnit

    IQAppsSettingsFile

    SET

    GARMIN/APPS/SETTINGS
    SET

    InputOutput

    IQAppsObjectStoreFile

    STR

    GARMIN/APPS/DATA
    STR

    InputOutput

    IQAppsMailboxFile

    MBX

    GARMIN/APPS/MAIL
    MBX

    InputOutput

    IQErrorReports

    YML

    GARMIN/APPS/LOGS
    CIQ_LOG
    YML

    OutputFromUnit

    006-D6792-03

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    french.ln3

    006-D6792-08

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    spanish.ln3

    006-D6792-04

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    german.ln3

    006-D6792-05

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    italian.ln3

    006-D6792-09

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    swedish.ln3

    006-D6792-00

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    danish.ln3

    006-D6792-06

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    norwegia.ln3

    006-D6792-01

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    dutch.ln3

    006-D6792-02

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    finnish.ln3

    006-D6792-13

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    polish.ln3

    006-D6792-11

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    czech.ln3

    006-D6792-12

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    hungaria.ln3

    006-D6792-10

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    croatia.ln3

    006-D6792-17

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    greek.ln3

    006-D6792-14

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    slovakia.ln3

    006-D6792-15

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    slovenia.ln3

    006-D6792-16

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    russian.ln3

    006-D6792-22

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    hebrew.ln3

    006-D6792-18

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    brazilia.ln3

    006-D6792-23

    3
    20

    Garmin/Text
    arabic.ln3

    006-F0057-01

    0
    00

    Garmin
    gmapbmap.img

    006-D6310-00

    0
    00

    Garmin
    gmapprom.img

    006-D1074-00

    22
    00

    Garmin
    gmaptz.img

    006-D5947-13

    6
    00

    Garmin
    gmapsup1.img

    006-D5948-12

    5
    60

    Garmin
    gmapsup2.img

    006-D5949-12

    5
    10

    Garmin
    gmapsup3.img

    006-D4677-13

    19
    10

    Garmin
    gmapcycle.img

    006-D4712-03

    19
    10

    Garmin
    gmapdem.img

    006-D7786-00

    19
    10

    Garmin
    D7786000A.img

    006-B2604-00

    14
    20

    Garmin
    GUPDATE.GCD

    006-B2957-00

    2
    50

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    gup2957.gcd

    006-B2605-00

    3
    00

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    gup2605.gcd

    006-B2663-00

    6
    90

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    gup2663.gcd

    006-B2196-01

    2
    40

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    gup2196.gcd

    006-B2593-03

    2
    40

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    6B259303.GCD

    006-B2327-02

    3
    40

    Garmin/RemoteSW
    6B232702.GCD

    006-D0952-05

    0
    00

    Garmin/ExtData
    006-D0952-05.bin

    006-D0952-06

    0
    00

    Garmin/ExtData
    006-D0952-06.bin

    006-D0952-07

    0
    00

    Garmin/ExtData
    006-D0952-07.bin

    006-D0952-08

    0
    00

    Garmin/ExtData
    006-D0952-08.bin

    3145728
    100
    1048576
    jpg

    892962130

    32
    2097152

    3.0.1

    Now MapInstall will show “fenix Fake (Unit ID 0) (Unit ID 0)” as a device that you can install maps to whenever the fake-garmin-sd.dmg is mounted.

    One other note is that a bunch of the font colors in MapInstall 4.3.2 are completely broken in Dark Mode so that they are unreadable. Why Garmin enabled Dark Mode but did not set the font colors correctly is baffling. It’s like they just set the compile flag but never actually ran the app in Dark Mode.

  24. Sylvester Jakubowski

    Anyone know if on the top end Titanium model (6X Pro Solar) the watch body is titanium too? Or just the band? Thanks.

  25. Akshay Meiyappan

    Hi
    Thanks for the review. Somewhere in one of your reviews you’ve mentioned that some of the features from the Venu/vivoactive 4 will be on the F6.
    Could you shed a bit more light on what these features are ? Respiration rate without a chest strap? Estimated sweat loss and anything else ?
    Also any idea when it’ll come out?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Yes, respiration rate for non-workouts without the chest strap, as well as estimated sweat loss. Basically, almost everything from the Venu. Within my Venu review I list the features and timelines. Off the top of my head (just running out the door), it was basically early fall for some, and late fall for others.

    • Nadav

      All of these are out in the last firmware update from a week ago. Already have them on my 6 pro.
      Hydration widget doesn’t exist yet though

  26. Nedim

    Based on a few weeks of observations, GPS track on the Fenix 6 Pro is absolutely horrendous, probably the worst I have had on any device. Yet, surprisingly the total distance displayed is about right.

    Case in point, I recently I ran a marathon in mostly open/forested area in Maine. Most other GPS devices had no issues, it was easy reception. Check out the traces, I picked a dozen or so other runners around me in Strava flyby; the 6 Pro is the black line

    link to imgur.com

    It’s not just these three areas, during the entire 26 miles it is almost always the outlier. It is *BY FAR* the WORST GPS track of all of them. The guy I was running with had an ancient TomTom and his trace was pretty much the entire time on the road, spot on. Yet, this brand new, premium priced device from the market leader MISERABLY FAILS in the one thing it should do well, GPS tracking. It’s sad and I feel like a fool for purchasing it.

    • Scott Griffith

      Actually, I don’t think it’s as bad as you describe. It is a little off but, not “failing miserably”.

    • Nadav

      I gotta say my GPS tracks are pretty spot on, maybe sometimes occasional corner cutting. I’m using GPS+glonass

    • Raul V.

      Objectively it may not be very bad but relatively it is for sure. While it’ll pretty much undoubtedly be the most expensive device of them all…..
      It makes you uncertain of how well it does other things, that one cannot check very easily (or not at all).
      I can understand the anger….

    • Frederic

      It’s likely due to the new Sony GPS chipset that most high end watches use at the moment (Suunto 9, Coros Apex and Vertix….).
      It allows manufacturers to boast a tremendous amount of battery because it’s a low-voltage chipset (and ultimately thats great) but I think it comes at the expense of the quality of the track.

    • Nedim

      Scott, let me give you a bit more data. Compare exact same run yesterday done with the Fenix 6 link to strava.com to the same route a few weeks ago with the Forerunner 935 link to strava.com. On this particular route, I can give you dozens of runs with a number of different devices and they all are within .05 most of the time. Look how the 935 tracks are tight and overlapping. Look how the Fenix 6 tracks are diverging and passing through houses on the side of the road, even though there is sidewalk on only one side of the road and I ran on it both directions

      I expected way more from a brand new premium device from the market leader.

    • Chris

      My GPS tracks were perfect until this latest firmware update 4.20 and now the track is all over the place…

  27. Andrew

    As always, great review. It makes me want to upgrade from the Fenix 5 (original).
    Do you know if Garmin plans to develop the PacePro into the Fenix 5? I can see the PacePro feature in the Garmin Connect app and can “send to device” but even after a sync I can’t see the pace strategy on the watch.

  28. Thanks so much for this great review.
    Just a question, is the grey wrist band on 6s picture, part of the box ?

    • No, see the text that’s directly above it:

      “Meanwhile, unpack the top and here’s all the goodness inside. In this particular case it’s shown with an extra strap that was included in the box sent to me. That is *NOT* the norm. No extra strap for you! I’ll re-shoot this photo sometime after I sleep.”

      One of these days I’ll sleep. Sorry!

  29. andrea dugato

    Thanks DC!

  30. Nicholas

    Hi Ray. I really appreciate your reviews. Especially the ones regarding new sports watches!

    I purchased my Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire a while back and is quite happy with it. However, there are some quirks and problems with it, especially with music.

    Spotify issues:
    After Garmin updated their software, the Spotify app struggles, and there are tons of feedback on the Connect IQ site that music is not working as intended. For example music worked flawlessly on my watch until the last update. Now I cannot raise the volume anymore in the Spotify app. It only plays music with the volume set very low.

    Blueish baclight:
    Also I have seen a lot of people complaining about different LED backlighting issues with their watches on Reddit. Either the watch has a really good backlighting with good contrast, or it kind of has a blue tint to it. Mine seems to have the blueish tint, although it looks exactly like the backlight on my old Fenix 5X.

    Have you or anyone else any trouble with the backlight or Spotify functionality lately?

  31. Scott

    Hey Ray,
    Awesome review as usual. I have had the 6x sapphire for 3 weeks now. Really love you review and I found all works as you say. Great upgrade. However – one exception – estimated VO2 Max. The watch is recalculating a VO2 Max estimate on every run (4 per week) and appears to ONLY use pace as the measure. Contrary to having all the other measures available – there seems to be no use of them in the calculation – like temperature, skIn temp, altitude, elevation gain/loss, respiration rate, distance, heat rate (with HRM Tri), all running dynamics, pulse ox, HR recovery, calories. Seems there should be some use and consideration of more of all these available measures.

    Variances in VO2 Max estimates are up to 10% change from run to run……

    Am I missing something?

    I had way more consistent VO2 estimate with my 5x. I travel every week and i mix road and tail runs so all of my measurements are always extremely varied as are All of my runs. Yet pace seems to be the only driver of the “fitness” measurement. I am glad to share additional data if it helps.
    Any addition insights here from your side?

    Thanks.

  32. Heiko

    is there anybody with hands-in experience with the different screen sizes? For example:
    – are fontsizes different?
    – is it substantially nicer/easier to use the map on the larger screens?

  33. David

    I am really interested in purchasing the Garmin Fenix 6 pro edition as a daily watch for all of its features. I have owned a FR 235 for years but really on use it to track my runs and tell time. The message notifications have never really worked with iOS for me. My biggest fear is that I will have issues with the Fenix 6 and MacOS /iOS connectivity. Is it worth paying a premium for a watch that may have connectivity issues? Or are the issues actually real?

  34. Brennan Fox

    Any idea what is up with the HRV Stress feature? There seems to be a tracker in the Connect app but there isn’t much info on it.

  35. Marc Abernathy

    Hi Ray — Thanks for the great review. I’m a fan of the Fenix line and use the 5X now. I was thinking of upgrading, but then I ran the Chicago Marathon and data was a disaster. Fenix reported that I ran 29 miles at a 6-minute, including an impressive 4:12 mile in the early going. All of that would have been wonderful, but, in fact, I averaged 9 minutes and ran a 3:56 marathon alongside my wife. I know this is a known issue in cities, but are they working on it? My wife’s Apple Watch was dead on in recording the event, so I have some envy there. –Marc Abernathy

    • Nedim

      Marc,

      I expect no improvement. After a lot of back-and-forth,Garmin support told me that the GPS accuracy spec they are working with for consumer devices is 15m –> that may be ok for their engineering department (easy goals and all), but it’s not ok for athletes.

      They recommended switching over to the FR945 as the metal bezel is apparently influencing the accuracy and the plastic casing of the FR should make it perform better.

      The whole raison d’etre for Garmin watches is accurate GPS. If the Apple watch, a far superior smartwatch, is more accurate, why bother with Garmin?

    • Scott

      Why do you believe that 15m is not “ok” for athletes?

    • Marc

      Thank you, Nedim. I appreciate the help. Not going to upgrade, anyway. And it may be time to move to Apple, though the battery life issue is a problem.

    • Nedim

      Scott, well, read Marc’s account of his race above. Seems like “not ok” to me.

      I have been recording runs on the same roads with the FR610, 910XT, Ambit 2R, 735XT and 935 all agreeing on the route. The heatmap was pretty tight and you could identify streets. Come Fenix 6, and the map is all over the place with wide variations, tracks going through houses left and right on the street. How do I trust this for pacing?

    • Scott

      Actually, I wasn’t commenting on his race results or his tracks. I was commenting on the response from Garmin regarding expectations. Being within 15 meters seems reasonable to me.

    • Nedim

      Hey Scott,

      you would have to decide for yourself. Here how 15m accuracy in a pretty open area with no tall buildings looked for me yesterday link to imgur.com

      Looking at this, would you trust the Fenix 6 Pro GPS to pace yourself? Yeah, me neither.

    • Scott

      Again, I’m not commenting on tracks. I’m commenting on Garmin’s response. 15 meters is reasonable. What you’re showing does not look like 15 meters now does it?

    • Caren

      I think it’s obvious it IS within 15metres deviation from the road!

      If you take two lines on either side of the road 7.5 metres to the north and south of the track there Garmin would say they’re within tolerance. To a normal user it’s adding on extra distance and is clearly a rubbish track.

      The simple fact is this: Garmin are unable to provide good tracks with their metal bezel used as antenna on their so called ‘premium’ watches.

      If you buy a Fenix 5 or 6 series then you know this is the case, so be careful what you buy. A plastic watch is less attractive but provides better tracks and, to me, is more reliable. I won’t buy another Garmin in protest at such shoddy hardware and software.

  36. Andy

    Really strugeling with decision if i should go new Fenex 6/6x or Suunto 9. Anyone have an idea if Garmin also have more GPS settings like Suunto (best,good,ok).? I do not know how to compare Fenix 6/6x GSP battery hours to Suunto? So for example Garmin 6x have mentioned “up to 60h” … probably this is 1 sec. interval? So that compare or compete with Suunto 9 in “best” (1sec) interval where Suunto mentioned 25h? I am correct?

    • Brian Reiter

      In the Power Manager the options to influence GNSS power consumption are worse to best:

      GPS+Galileo
      GPS+GLONAS
      “Normal” GPS
      UltraTrac

      Totally separately there is a 1sec vs. Smart data recording mode. There is some debate about if this makes a detectable difference in the GPS data quality. I think it doesn’t make any difference in aggregate but the 1sec is slightly better if you want to zoom in on the track later or use 3rd party analysis. This option has a fairly negligible effect on battery life.

      The power manager stuff that Garmin admittedly more or less cloned from Suunto is super-cool. You can really see how something affects power. For example GPS is estimate to get +5 hours battery vs. GPS+GLONAS on a full charge on the 6X.

      There is no middle-ground between UltraTrac and GPS-only where you can tell it to poll a bit less, but the battery life it projects is as good or better than the Suunto 9 anyway.

      There is a lot of tweakery. If you disable all the sensors and bluetooth and music and use GPS-only it will project about 74 hours.

      As an aside, they also appear to have created an altimeter calibration mode that is similar to Suunto FusedAlti but it is off by default. In Settings > Sensors > Altimeter there is an option to tell it to calibrate continuously during the activity. I’m not 100% certain but it appears to use DEM data combined with 2D GPS position for the calibration.

    • Paul S

      Continuous calibration has been around at least since the original Fenix. It worked well on the Fenix; I rarely had to calibrate and the altitudes were accurate. It didn’t work on the Epix. Jury’s still out on my Fenix 5+; I think I have it on right now, but I remember a hike I did a few months ago where the altitude slipped by about 50 ft from beginning to end, so it’s not clear to me yet it functions correctly. Garmin actually has a patent on the technique, which you can easily track down with a search. They originally just used GPS altitude as the constraint; maybe they use DEM now.

    • Brian Reiter

      That’s interesting. The fenix 3 and 5 series did not have continuous altimeter calibration and suffered from significant drift with barometric pressure changes. Those watches calibrate the altimeter at the start of an activity and seemingly only if you wait for a 3D GPS fix before starting.

    • Miller

      link to garmin.com.sg Asian firmware v3.10 offered support for Beidou. It’s pity to Asian market only. Why don’t expand to global market ?

  37. Brian Reiter

    Hi Ray,

    I’m completely flummoxed trying to add Central Africa Time as a time zone in the Alt. Time Zones widget on the f6x. This was “Cape Town” on the fenix 5 series. All I can seem to select is Cairo (DST) which selects the whole CAT time zone on the map but is an hour ahead. The option of Paris (DST) is the correct time today but only because of daylight saving time and will be wrong in a few weeks.

    Am I missing something? There seems be no way to select a bunch of West Africa Time, Central Africa Time / Southern Africa Standard Time, or East Africa Time — all of which are fixed offsets of UTC without Daylight Saving. be no way to manually add a UTC time zone offset that does jump back and forth with daylight saving. There are a few random non-DST zones like Arizona, UTC, and Azores.

    The map selection is cute and all but it is missing a bunch of zones. I don’t get it. Surely there is a way to work around this but I can’t figure it out.

    • Huh, that’s weird. I’m travelling at the moment (and not to Central Africa), and don’t have the Fenix 6 with me. I’ll poke at it tomorrow.

      Just out of curiosity – why not use the automatic timezone stuff? Meaning, it’ll use both your phone and/or GPS to set the correct timezone as soon as you sync one or the other.

    • Brian Reiter

      Hi Ray,

      It’s not about setting the current time zone — which is automatic by GPS. I want to set time zones in the “Alt. Time Zones” widget. I used to have New York, UTC, and Cape Town and sometimes others depending on where people are that I’m working with. But now I can’t set Cape Town and then I also realized other time zones that don’t use DST are missing also.

    • Brian Reiter

      My problem is not that the primary time zone of the watch is set incorrectly. The issue is with the “Alt. Time Zones” widget.

      There are a bunch of missing time zones in there now, and the graphical selector dingus is wrong. For example, if you select South Africa on the map, it chooses “Cairo (DST)” which wrong by an hour. South Africa — and most of Africa — doesn’t have daylight saving time.

      This worked correctly on the f5 series, so it’s a regression, or I’m missing something about how to manually input a time zone with a fixed UTC offset.

    • Brian Reiter

      The 4.62 beta firmware fixes the Alt Time Zones widget to restore all the missing zones. Now you select a region such as Africa from the map and then it gives you a big list of all the valid zones in that region.

  38. Alex

    So I just got a Fenix 5 plus sapphire Titanium non DLC. Is there any chance that some of the software related features will ever make it over to the 5 plus? It seems that Garmin doesn’t do this to encourage sales of the new product. I don’t need the other hardware features on the 6 and with the sale I got on the 5 plus it would be about a $300 price difference which doesn’t make it worth it to me but I sure would like some of the new software features.

  39. Rob J

    Hey Ray, these guys appear to be stealing your stuff (at least the “what’s new” sections): link to mightygadget.co.uk

  40. Thomas D

    Very happy with my F6, and generally also with the OHR – except for hiking climbs.

    A typical course starts with running, then I go into brisk walking on the steepest incline parts to the top, then I run home.

    On the running at the start and the last half, the OHR is accurate compared to manual pulse check. On the steep ascent, OHR drops to 95, but my effort and breathing, as well as manual pulse check verifies pulse around 155-160.

    This has happened on several occasions and today it was the same on my wife’s F6s Pro as on my F6 Pro. A quick run earlier today had accurate OHR the entire run.

    I don’t know of it has something to do with Garmin’s algorithm, how it measures/filters/computes OHR, or just something with OHR reading. I’ve tried on earlier climbs to reposition the watch and change wrists etc with no luck, so I’m inclined to think it has to do with Garmin’s algorithm?

  41. Lee Sutton

    Hi Ray

    For the resp rate tracking. Does it work with any make of strap or does it need to be Garmin and if Garmin, does it need to be a run/Tri one?

    Cheers

    Lee

  42. Moises

    Hi, grate review, what will be the difference from a Marq expedition watch to the fenix 6 pro.

  43. Tim

    On a few occasions my fenix 6x pro gets stuck on saving an activity. This needs to then be powered off. The activity is uploaded but doesn’t show as my last activity on the widgets screen. Anyone know of a fix for this? Thanks

  44. David Smoot

    I put down money on a Fenix 6 Pro Solar at my local running shop the day this was posted here in the USA. Now the shipping date is showing 11/10. Garmin Website shows shipping in 5-8 weeks. Has anyone in the USA gotten their pro solars?

    Somehow weirdly waiting is easier if everybody is waiting but annoying if I just picked the wrong shop to preorder.
    David

  45. Jan Matusek

    Hi, I have a quaestion – Fenix 6 – Garmin connect – Estimated Sweat Loss — is it possible to get this (Sweat loss) to DATA field on watch (when acitivity)? :-)

    Thanx. Jan.

  46. Lee Sutton

    Hey Ray

    Just order a 6X Sapphire with your code from CTUK :-)

    One question I have is about training load focus. I currently run and ride. Does it accumulate both activities together, or will it always just show me data for the sport I’ve just done?

    Cheers

    Lee

  47. Archibald Loch

    Fake event again

  48. Michael L.

    I have been using my Fenix 6X with one of the Garmin training programs. When I do certain segments of the program where there is a pace range, I get the attached data page which shows a “bug” that goes between the red green red area showing me if I am in the range along with the data fields of pace for that segment, time left in the segment and distance. Is there a way to get this page with its features on Workouts that I create?

    Thanks.

  49. Dan Smith

    Thanks for the helpful review. Did you look into altimeter / elevation tracking accuracy?

  50. Jim

    Hi,

    Is the sapphire crystal better than the DLC? Been looking at the 6x sapphire but like the darker face look and saw there is a 6 pro DLC with A black face. Is there a difference?

  51. Johnny

    Hey Ray

    Another great review.

    I recently upgraded my Fenix 3HR to the Fenix 5Plus (June 2019) however, i was having some hardware issues and after getting a refund from Amazon have purchased the new Garmin 6Pro via Clever Training UK (thanks for the 10% discount code).

    I’m having a few issues sync’n with the Garmin weather widget and some watch faces – have you encountered anything similar? I’m using an iPhone with the latest iOS and the Garmin Mobile Connect app is up-to-date as is the software on the Garmin Fenix 6Pro. The Garmin weather app says it is waiting for data and the watch faces show as sync’d in the in the Mobile Connect IQ app but on the watch an IQ(!) error is shown. All these features worked on my older Fenix 5Plus using the same iPhone.

    Keep up the good work.

    J

    • Paul S.

      There are quite a few complaints about Bluetooth connections with the latest iOS. I’ve had trouble with my iPhone 11 Pro and various Bluetooth devices, including my Apple Watch 5. They mostly seem to have been solved by the latest iOS update, but not entirely. I just checked and my 5+ is seen by Garmin Connect, but it wasn’t yesterday, while Settings->Bluetooth said it was connected. I’ve had trouble connecting my Withings blood pressure cuff to their app as well. It often seems to be the case that Settings-Bluetooth will show a peripheral as connected while the associated app can’t see it.

    • JR

      Yeah, I’m having serious connection issues as well. I get all my notifications, but I can’t sync activities and the weather widget hasn’t updated in over a week. The only way I can sync is to make my phone a wifi hotspot and add that network to the watch.

    • Keith

      I’ve noticed a similar issue. I’ve got into the habit of switching the BlueTooth on my iPhone off then on. Syncing to the watch then seems to start straightway… Not good really, but better than nothing!

    • Brian Reiter

      I have the same problem and sometimes it can be fixed by toggling bluetooth on my phone and/or using the disconnect/connect phone on the watch.

      I suspect both iOS 13 and the fenix 6X 4.20 firmware.

      I also have a potentially related problem where it sometimes it can’t connect to my bluetooth headphones. The only solution I have found to fix that is reboot the watch.

    • Lasse

      Same here. I have issues with both Bluetooth and wi-fi connections and that started with the latest update of the Fenix 6. I just can’t get them to work properly. Newest firmware on iPhone.

    • Johnny

      I spoke to Garmin support last night and they suggested removing Fenix 6Pro from the Garmin mobile connect app, then forgetting the Fenix 6Pro from my iPhone’s Bluetooth settings before finally deleting the Garmin mobile connect app. Then downloading the Garmin mobile connect app and re-pair the Fenix 6Pro as a new device. All this didn’t make any different……

      I then tried sync’n the Fenix 6Pro with my MacBook using Garmin Express app and there where serval software updates which weren’t available via Bluetooth/Wifi via the Garmin mobile app (most of these appeared to be map updates) however, my weather app, watchfaces/apps/widgets and data fields which previously were not working are all now working 👍🏼.

    • Brian Reiter

      I got an upgrade to Garmin Connect mobile and iOS to 13.2. With those combined changes, sync seems to be working, for now.

  52. Nyochai

    Great Review, looking forward to getting my Fenix 6 Pro and test the battery.

  53. Dean

    Great review, but can I input direct on to watch military grid reference, thanks

  54. Edwin

    Thank you very much for the review, appreciate the work and recommendations. And thank you for the discount code for the EU readers, it really makes a difference. Thanks again!!

  55. nyochai

    Great review, i wonder about the battery life and GPS accuracy vs 945, as I found 945 performance to be very poor in these two areas.

  56. Devin

    I am having a hard time figuring out how to set up the Nacho Cheese Dispenser feature on my 6s. Any tips?

    • Juan Palacios

      That’s becase you need to purchase the GarminTaco© device that is sold separately. You just link ’em via BT and you’re done. With it, you also get mole, fajitas and black beans for your convenience but you’ll have to configure such features first. LOL :D :D

  57. Alex

    Probably been asked before…

    But is solar worth not having the Sapphire-glas?

  58. Leandro Silva

    Hi guys,
    Following my previous posts, here is the 6X Pro Sapphire purchased on CT.UK using Ray’s cupon. Great discount! Everything went really well and fast (4 days) without any problems ;) Recommended!
    Cheers
    Leandro

    Few moments ago, I went out for my first run with this beast 😉There are so many things and data provided by the watch, that I now have to gradually be aware of and learn how to properly use that information. In some moments the GPS signal was lost, but I probably have to confirm if everything is setup correctly.

    Once again thank you so much Ray for your insights and keep going with your outstanding product reviews!

    Cheers (from Portugal 😉),
    Leandro Silva

  59. Mark Drury

    Have you had feedback from Garmin on the porting of PacePro to the 945?

  60. I have an outdoors-focused review on my site if anyone is looking for more info on nav features, etc.

    link to hikingguy.com

  61. Chuck

    I have to wonder if Garmin has tweaked the Body Battery. I had a Forerunner 945 which rarely showed anything less than 100 in the morning. I am now using a Fenix 6 which has been in the 80s and 70s most mornings. So dramatically different behavior with I assume is very similar hardware. Thoughts?

  62. Which would you go for between the Fenix 6 and the 945XT for triathletes?

  63. Thomas Berther

    Hi. I always read your reviews with high interest before I buy a new Garmin device. I have just unpacked my new Fenix 6 Sapphire which will replace my Fenix 5 Sapphire.
    Based on you report I was expecting a slimer watch know and was therefore somewhat disapointed to find that my new Fenix 6 has exactly the same thickness as my old Fenix 5 (15.8 mm). Did Garmin change the dimensions since your testing. Best regards. Tom

  64. Miller

    link to garmin.com.sg Asian firmware v3.10 offered support for Beidou. It’s pity to Asian market only. Why don’t expand to global market ?

  65. Ray Stephens

    Has anyone upgraded from a Fenix 5s sapphire to either the 6s or 6 sapphire? Would appreciate any comments regarding your switch.

  66. Paul Lewis

    So I’m still a little bit blown away that we are now up to the Fenix 6 and there is still not a native Ski Touring (backcountry) sport App. Does it not seem like it should be a prerequisite for a watch like this?

    • Brian Reiter

      Backcountry Ski is a built-in Activity on the 4.63 beta firmware.

    • Paul Lewis

      Hey Brian,

      Thats awesome thank you for that. Just trying to install and realized its not happening as I’m on a mac! Guess I’m waiting for the public release.

      System requirements
      IBM-compatible PC running Windows 2000 or later operating system and an available USB port.

    • Brian Reiter

      Me too. You can install it by copying the files with Android File Transfer.app.

      link to android.com

      Or anything else that implements the Media Transfer Protocol client. It’s built into recent versions of Windows — which is why those instructions just say to use Windows.

  67. Devin

    Re: this “adaptive” training advisor, how exactly does Garmin “know” what training areas you need? Of course it can learn and tell how hard you’ve been working, what intensities etc., but what does it match them up against? What is its model of endurance training that matches your profile and activities up against in order to find deficits?

    Root of the question is, is it really useful?

  68. Pedro T

    Just got my new fenix 6 sapphire and was surprised to see that it it comes with all maps – from Garmin Express i’ve updated the watch and it shows coverage all regions and topoactive for Europe. I’m in the US on business and bought the garmin in Europe because all reviews stated that the fenix6 would come with the maps of the country of purchase …but it seems that is not the case.. what am i missing here??.. have i just lost around 90€ ?!

    I could not find any answer both on manual nor on discussion forums!!!

    • Brian Reiter

      You were given correct information. You have the EU map set: TopoActive Europe is a detailed mapset derived from OpenStreetmap.

      If you had a US edition, you would have the “TopoActive Americas North” instead.

      Those other map sets — “Map Coverage of North and South America”, “Map Coverage of Pacific”, “Map Coverage of Europe”, “Middle East and Africa” are all extremely low resolution base maps. I don’t honestly understand the point of them. It seems like they just have major political boundaries and major highways.

      If you want USA coverage for your EU edition watch, I recommend the USA OSM Topo Routable maps compiled by gmaptool.eu. I actually have US edition watches. On my f5X it came with “Cycle Map North Americ” and I disabled them to use the gmaptool maps derived from OSM because they had better trail detail than the official Garmin ones.

      link to gmaptool.eu

      On my new 6X, it comes with TopoActive Americas North, which I think is just OpenStreetMap.

      This whole situation is shameless and asinine.

      Garmin should just make their entire TopoActive worldwide mapset that they just repackage from OSM available to all Fenix and Marq watches for free and simply bundle the local region for convenience. These devices have maps as a premier feature and they are premium devices at the top of the market cost structure. Charging for open source maps is a move to extract more money out of naive customers who are not experienced enough with the tech to go out and get them. It’s just a bad customer experience.

      I don’t have a problem with Garmin charging extra for their BirdsEye maps or high resolution 24k and TopoPro maps. Those are a legitimate value proposition.

    • Agree with everything Brian wrote.

      I will say however that semi-recently (this year sometime), Garmin did start offering the regional detailed North America maps for quite a reasonable price ($20 for Western Europe).

      I think that’s actually fair given they are of added value over OSM (namely popularity routing, which I think is actually worth the $20).

      However, I take away all that credit for the complete @#$#-show that it is to actually load these maps. There’s no excuse in 2019 (going on 2020) for it being that complex. It should be an easy transaction via the GCM app with your credit card, and then the device simply downloads via WiFi. Just like how Wahoo & Sigma work (except they don’t charge anything).

    • Brian Reiter

      I didn’t even realize Popularity Routing required a Garmin mapset. I thought it worked regardless.

      However, it doesn’t work here in Zimbabwe at all, despite a ton of Garmin bike, run, and hiking data which I know exists. Garmin watches are hugely popular among a fitness obsessed segment of the population. You can see the data in Strava heatmaps, but the feature is greyed-out in Garmin Connect. Popularity Routing has never worked anywhere in Africa outside of South Africa that I have tried.

      I think they definitely do have the raw data. Clearly they aren’t trying.

    • It’d be slightly interesting to understand from Garmin why it doesn’t work in Zimbabwe. My guess it that despite Garmin watches probably being popular within the context of folks you know and the greater athletic community – my bet is that Garmin probably discards data sets below a given threshold that might be tuned for bigger areas.

    • Brian Reiter

      I just double-checked this feature in Garmin Connect. It’s not “greyed out”. It just doesn’t do anything.

      The “Popularity Heatmap” of Harare is nothing.

      Similar nothing for Iten, Kaptagat, and Eldoret Kenya. I don’t know for sure how many athletes have Garmin watches in that hotbed in Kenya but I’ve seen them on a lot of runners in photos — including the NN guys among others. And I’m sure a big proportion of the mzungus that go there for training camps.

      Same for Adis Ababa. I’ve been there as well. The streets are choked with runners in the morning. While most of them are without gadgets, I’m confident some portion of those people do have Garmin watches. The absolute numbers are huge, so even a small percentage would yield a ton of data.

      Compare with Cape Town or London which are covered with purple lines in the “Popularity Heatmap” layer.

    • Brian Reiter

      Strava Heatmaps

      Harare, Zimbabwe
      link to strava.com

      Eldoret, Kenya
      link to strava.com

      Kaptagat, Kenya
      link to strava.com

      Adis Ababa
      link to strava.com

      Clearly not all that data would be from Garmin, but given Garmin marketshare it should be dominant, so a plurality if not an outright majority.

  69. Thanks for the fantastic review, it has inspired me to purchase a Fenix 6 Pro.
    Can I confirm that PacePro is available on the Fenix 6 Pro as I can create routes and use PacePro in the app but when it comes to uploading the data to the watch it tells me that the Fenix 6 Pro isn’t compatible.
    Clearly I’m doing something wrong or I’ve set something up incorrectly.
    Any ideas what?
    Thanks in anticipation.

  70. Codasco

    I’m looking for a replacement charging cable. Has anyone had success with the litany of options on Amazon or stuck with official version from Garmin (~2.5x price)? Thanks!

  71. Ric Immens

    Hello
    I am considering to purchase a Fenix 6S.
    Right now i have a Forerunner 735xt. I am happy with the unit but not with the optical HR.
    This is not working fine during workouts. Especially intervals are not registered well.
    I have a thin wrist and also have the idea that is one of the main reasons.
    Has someone experience that the optical HR of the Fenix 6 is working better?

    • Brian Reiter

      I have mostly good results with the optical HR sensor in the f5X and f6X. Even so, I prefer to use an HRM-Run strap for best results with intervals and spin. There are limits to the accuracy of wrist optical HR regardless of watch. They are best for 24-hour poling and steady-state aerobic activities without too much jostling or wrist flexion.

      I think you will enjoy a big feature and speed upgrade from the 735XT to the f6S, but if your only problem is registering accurate HR for intervals, I would recommend getting an accessory heart rate strap like the Garmin HRM-Run or HRM-Tri or possibly a Polar H10 or OH1 or a Scosche Rhythm.

    • Ric Immens

      Thanks Brian for the fast reply.
      I use the HRM-Run and a cheap Chinese strap (what also works ok).
      I weared 735xt now for more than 3 years 24/7. Actually it is working still fine but an upgrade is also very nice.