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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 25th, 2022 @ 3:43 am New Window
Price$549-$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
Dual-Frequency GNSSNoNo
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 Smart 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
Track Recognition ModeYesYesNo
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 underwaterYesWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)YesYesYes
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
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
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
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
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)YesFenix 5X Plus onlyYesNoNo
ECG FunctionalityNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)YesNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)NoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
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
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
AmazonLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Backcountry.comLinkLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLinkLink
REILinkLinkLink
WiggleLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
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 Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the Garmin Fenix 6 Series or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the Garmin Fenix 6 Series or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1,725 Comments

  1. Striff

    I’m torn between the 6 Pro and 6X Solar.
    What would help is in the photos you could caption which watch it is we are looking at, I know some of the photos is the Solar due to the watch face, but others I’m not sure on.

    Is it possible to Show the a comparison of how all the watches including the Forerunner 945 look on your wrist to get an idea on the size of these…
    Cheers
    S

  2. Mark Lown

    Hi DC,

    Great review as always. I purchased a fenix 5 plus at the start of the year. Do Garmin tend to provide some updates to legacy models ie could we see the new firstbeat metrics on the 5 series or do they tend to remain static please?

    many thanks and best wishes,
    Mark.

    • Esso

      I would not say they tend to do that, no. Sadly. I upgraded from 5 to 5+ since the software on the 5 was not updated with the 5+ release.
      It sucks.

    • They actually have in the past. Though, there’s no plans to this time around.

      I’d encourage folks to look back at the firmware update listing to see just how much stuff gets added after release: link to www8.garmin.com

    • Raul V.

      Can anybody tell me if Fenix 6 (or 5) overlooks steps when it’s not on the wrist but there is an external cadence sensor connected which it hasn’t switched to? I just discovered my F3 HR has this shortcoming.

    • Raul V.

      This is all the website shows.
      I happen to have nbr 5.40.
      They’re keeping the watch updated longer than they do the site. Which, I have to admit, is better than the opposite…
      But still a bit weird.

  3. Alexandre Costa

    Hi Ray,
    Is the 6S the only one with a smaller lug to lug distance?
    Thanks

    • Striff

      on the Garmin forums, someone posted a comparison of a Fenix 5 Pro and Feinx 6 Pro,.
      Looks like the lug was shorter on these as well

  4. Paolo

    Is there a difference between the display of the solar one and the normal 6x with gorilla glass regarding visibility and clarity/brightness?

  5. Jon

    Great review Ray!

    How is the bluetooth headphone reception on it? I’ve got a 5 plus that I’ve loved – music without a phone on a jog is fantastic – however when using my Jabra Elite 65t’s with it I find I need to wear it on my right arm otherwise audio keeps cutting out.

    Any idea if this is improved with the 6? How is Bluetooth audio on it?

    Thanks!

    • Nathan

      I have the Elite Active 65T. Generally bluetooth appears improved vs the 5x plus and MARQ. I wear my watch on the left and have had no issues so far.

    • Jon

      With the 6 & the Elite Active 65T? Which model 6 are you using?

      Any idea if it’s better with pairing connecting initially as well? Mine always seems slight spotty to connect.

      Only say this as the major issue for the 5 plus for me has been the fact I need to use my right arm for audio purposes.

    • Nick Yanakiev

      I use the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless- wore my Fenix 6X Pro on my left wrist. Paired successfully without me having to redo the process 15 times like before.

      No dropouts during my 30 minute run either- really happy with this.

    • Nathan

      6x Pro Solar (also have a MARQ) the Jabra buds do a weird thing where they are looking for a propitiatory connection in the first 10 seconds or so to set the “moment” via the Jabra app. So your best bet is to always have the phone as the 1st device and the watch as the 2nd (my experience). I pull the headphones out of the case, let them connect to the phone, and then start music on the watch. Works great. You get some connection oddities (skips and such) as the phone is disconnecting when you run away from your house, but otherwise performance is brilliant.

    • Jon

      Thanks – that’s really helpful. Looks like I’ll pull the trigger on getting the 6 in that case!

  6. Pawel

    I’m wonder if OHR works during swim, does training load counts this activity? Or do I need to use HRM belt as I do now?
    @Garmin: any plans to add wrist based swimming HR to older units (F5, FR 935, F5+)?

  7. Gordon Cameron

    Can you load audiobooks onto the 6? Audio books on wearables is a big topic of discussion among my running mates, but we can’t find much about it anywhere.

  8. Dmitry

    So from my understanding all the models are available for purchase right now except for the solar ones which will be available towards October, correct?

  9. Zac Lionakis

    Already a firmware update, just last night uploaded version 3.0 in my 6X pro solar

  10. SachaN

    My question is about the glass, Gorilla vs Sapphire. I’m clumsy, and watch faces don’t survive with me… until Sapphire came along. Nearly 2 years later and my Fenix 5 still has no scratches. So how strong is the 6x Solars glass compared to the sapphire models?

    • matej

      Good question, i want to know too how is gorilla glas compared to saphire.

    • Kevin

      Same here.

    • myke

      I am in the same boat! DC says it is Gorilla Glass v3 (with DX coating) which is a pretty old recipe. I owned a Fenix 3HR and currently a 5X. Both had suffered zero scratches or breaks in the sapphire glass. I really need to know how close Gorilla Glass v3 & sapphire are together in regards to durability!

    • Nathan

      It will scratch easier than sapphire. I’m a bit worried about it myself, but willing to see how it holds up due to the additional clarity and the solar feature is pretty cool

    • myke

      Well, yes. But how much is what I am wondering. Also, the impact resistants is an issue! I love the idea, but it just will not be practical if the glass is super fragile. I think i will wait it out and see what people say.

    • Ivo

      Gorilla glass is level 6 hardness whole saphire is level 9, might not sound as much but it’s a huge difference. You will scratch gorilla glass at some point 100%

    • “Gorilla Glass 3 with DX Coating” – To clarify, is it:
      Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX or
      Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX+

    • Veldkornet

      I had the exact same concern. Although I bit the bullet an bought the solar, hopefully it works out okay 😛

    • Volker

      It is Gorilla Glass DX:

      link to corning.com

    • Travis

      I put a grinder with a flap disc to the saphire glass to see and had it on there 5 seconds…it ground down bezel glass was dang near flawless…I held it there till it finally scuff burnt it and it took alot of pressure and time on it….i do fabrication and build buggys cant tell you how many times I’ve swung an arm to metal with the face of mine….

      Point is I’ll SKIP the solar one with gorilla glass for the saphire one that i know personally is tried and true…headed to get my 6 pro saphire tomorrow

  11. Claire

    The GarminLabs running power apps don’t seem to be compatible with this device? Just tried to download, only goes up to the Fenix 5?

  12. Nick

    Run one done: looking good! (didn’t “soak” the watch prior to starting, used every second recording and GPS+GLONASS)

    Check out my running activity on Garmin Connect. #beatyesterday
    link to connect.garmin.com

    I am also extremely pleased that my Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are fantastic with this watch!!
    (My former watch, the MARQ Expedition, did a poor job playing music so it had to go back)

  13. Geoff

    That is too funny. It is all in how you brand! Pretty soon we’ll see organic, farm raised Lucky Charms….

  14. MIchael

    Do you know why Garmin isn’t using bluetooth version 5? I can’t find any info online but it seems odd that they are still only on 4.0 when most new devices are on version 5. Unless I misunderstand what 4.0+ means..

    • Kirill

      5 is mainly for range (40 meters comparing to 10).
      1.6Mbps (theoretical) against 1Mbps
      Does it really worth it?

      In theory it’s also “less power consumption” but most of the chips on the market shows same in practice.

    • Michael

      thank you. That is good to know.

  15. ita

    EU/UK code DCR10BTF doesn’t work in garmin PT store. Says it’s not valid 🙁

  16. bummer

    Pretty disappointed there wasn’t a Forerunner 945 vs Fenix 6 section. You know that’s a hugely popular question you’re going to be asked continuously for the next year.

    • Eni

      You do realize you can compare them yourself on this site…?

      link to dcrainmaker.com

    • bummer

      Yes, but he even in his comments said garmin has committed to some features but not others (bringing them to the 945).

      ie if a triathlete needs a watch, would he recommend a fenix 6 or a 945? feature-wise, they’re almost identical. Given that, his opinion would be super interesting.

    • Wad

      IMO it all comes down to the battery life you need.

    • Eni

      I can’t remember Ray ever did an entire comparison section in one of his reviews. I guess because in the end it comes down to every individual preferences and needs.

      And even assume he would do a section where he compares the 945 with the fenix 6, people will start asking for numerous such comparison sections. So where to draw the line? Which devices deserve a comparison section and which do not?

    • Peter g

      From #7 citing Ray:

      I will “pull together a more specific chart for those two. It’s tricky with the larger comparison charts from a database perspective, else the entire chart basically just becomes a ‘Garmin product comparison database’, since it’s frankly rare that we see new feature innovation that’s easliy listable from the primary competitors in this space. ?

      The main differences once the firmware updates are done though is primarily physical in nature (look/materials), but also it’ll be the Fenix 6 will have stronger golf support, better ski resort support, and up to 8 data fields for the 6X (the FR945 will get 6 data fields). Additionally, the battery aspects are still TBD if Garmin will adopt them. That’s it.”

  17. Kirill

    First of all thank you for [one more] great review!

    Am I right that ClimbPro also exists on 5X/S and I need just to load a track to see details?

    But what is really interesting is how much “power” they add to 6 against 5? Sometimes I try to load navigation data from Strava/Wikiloc and if I use “low detailed” track (about 500-600 points on 20-30 km) all works well. But if I use detailed track (10k points on 20-30 km which may be useful on hilly forest) watches just hangs, reboot sometimes and even lost trainings data.
    This looks like “not enough memory/CPU for this”.
    Is this kinda improved in 6 or 1030 unit still the best solution?

    • Nathan

      Climbpro was first added on the 5 plus line. It only works with a course. Hopefully Garmin will implement it to work more like “segments” so that it can be used on the fly.

    • Peter G

      I think this limitation has to do with whether you load a track or route. These have different limitatoins in number of datapoints.

  18. Justin

    Awesome write up! I just got the 6X solar and at first the solar intensity widget showed a numerical % which was really cool, but now after the 3.00 update, there is no % anymore. Any thoughts on this coming back? I really wish it would. Thanks!

  19. Great Article, thanks.

    “except for the specialty units that come with an extra strap.”
    Which are considered “specialty units”? What extra strap do you get?

    Thanks.

  20. Robert

    Like usual, excellent review. Exquisite, bellisimo! 🙂

    “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.”
    Yeah, that’s Pain in the Ass.
    For me personally, it’s one of Garmin’s biggest shortcomings after switching from previous Suunto and Polar. Inability to edit sport modes from a mobile application or from a computer. As you stated, Garmin is so much bigger than these 2. Yet, they struggle for… how many years now? 3? 4? 5? To implement sport editing mode via mobile/desktop app… C’mon.

    Also, adding a single POI (when I’m not physically in this particular place) also requires a lot of gymnastics or the use of awkward third-party applications.

  21. Xorkkgul

    Does anyone know or can someone tell us what’s the lug to lug distance for the 6s, 6 and 6x models? The diameter is important, but the lug to lug distance too (for anyone with a small wrist to decide which model is the best for him/her). Thank you!

  22. Marek

    Can someone clarify, please? Is the 10% solar panel right under the glass? And thus blocking the display a bit? Is it reducing contrast or brightness of the display, or do you get more reflections? How does it compare to sapphire glass?

    One more question? Why is the 100% solar strip only one millimeter, there is a space for maybe 3-4mm strip (between the screen and the actual edge)! Could have been taking 4x more energy from that part!

    • Nathan

      You wouldn’t know it was there if Ray didn’t tell you. The ring around the display is interesting, because as the angle of the sun changes you can see it a bit more/less around the display, but under the display you wouldn’t know anything was there. The glass over the display is more clear than my MARQ or 5x Plus.

  23. reto nobs

    Hi there

    Very good review. Thanks.

    Is trailrunning now measuring (or calclulating) VO2 max?

    Thanks!

  24. Tim M

    Just received my 6x Pro and all is well except unable to change map theme to Popularity or Ski Resort as they don’t appear in the menu. Any ideas?

  25. Jim Nance

    I received my fenix 6x Pro Solar Titanium Carbon Gray DLC today. I’ve always installed Skinomi TechSkin screen protectors on my previous Garmin watches. However, Skinomi has yet to have the 6x protectors in stock. Therefore, I installed a fenix 5x protector onto my 6x, which covers all but the outer 1mm of the display including the solar absorbing ring. I can confirm that the screen protector does not interfere with the solar functions of the 6x!

    • Jim Nance

      Just to clarify above, the screen protector is covering the solar absorbing ring, but is not interfering with it’s functionality.

  26. Ton Hofhuis

    Thanks for this great review and the discount code. Will upgrade my 5s to 6x pro now. Really looking forward to use the music, payment and training recovery and training advice functions.

    • HM McD

      Did you get the discount code to work (USA)? I’ve tried everything and can’t get it to work…

    • Paul N.

      Unfortunately Garmin is usually excluded from the 10% discount in the US. If you join the VIP program then for items where they are excluded from the discount you get 10% in VIP points instead which are good for a dollar each off a future purchase. It’s not as convenient as a straight discount but it’s still better than paying full price. I look at as it just means I have a little extra money to spend come the black Friday sales.

  27. Artur

    Hi Ray,

    How does the size of Fenix 6 S (screen and overall) compared to Vivoactive 3 (sans music).

    Thanks!

  28. itsokjanet

    I assume, the lack of roadmap of most 6 features to fenix 5/+, is a foggy “don’t buy fenix” message to non hardcore sports enthusiasts. That is however, clear and early “don’t buy fenix 6+” message when it comes out. You know what will happen to it when 7 comes out a year after. Also garmin, for the love of sake, change the looks of fenix watches a bit. Physically solid watches don’t have to have ugly faces and screws exposed on it (i.e. polar and suunto).

    • Chris

      Appeal of the Fenix’s aesthetics is a matter of personal preference. I personally think these look good and the rugged style matches their purpose. Garmin also offers the simpler looking Forerunners, or the more upscale Marq series if you’re looking for something different.

  29. James Hughes

    So solar models are not available in the US until early October?:(((((((

  30. Nigel R

    Just upgraded from Fenix 5 to Fenix 6. So far really pleased. One thing that is puzzling me (and may not be that important but I really like the data). In the screenshots above it shows respiration on the sleep tracking screen (there are 3 tabs including pulse ox). I can’t se this on mine, not can I find anything about this functionality online. Anyone know how this works?
    Cheers, N.

    • SachaN

      It’s probably because Ray has test every Garmin 🙂 The respiration rate is available on the Forerunner 945, which is probably why he has it on the Connect app.
      On the Fenix it’s only available when using the chest strap.

    • It’s coming in a soon to be released firmware update. It was announced as part of the Vivoactive 4 & Venu series.

  31. Olivier

    Genuine question; can the Apple Watch replicate any of this advanced functionality? I am thinking about pacepro, maps navigation, climbpro etc.? I wonder if this functionality can be replicated through either native AW apps or 3rd party apps.

    I must admit I have fallen somewhat behind in terms of connected watches, and I have been blown away by all the things the Fenix 6 series can do. So much that money I have earmarked for a new Apple Watch is now being likely re-assigned to the Garmin. I would happily pay Garmin $100 or so for an AW app to replicate this functionality

    • Dave

      I doubt there’s anything any of the Fenix models do (software-wise) that can’t be done on Apple Watch, if the developer interest is there. I’m very much intending on going Apple Watch 5 and relegating my enormous Spartan Ultra to very long training or event use only.

    • Paul S.

      The big thing is it can’t pair with ANT+ sensors. That right there is a show stopper and Apple will never fix it. (And while, of course, there are apps with maps including trails, they’re separate apps which don’t include fitness recording.)

      And no always on screen, poor battery life compared to a Fenix, can’t operate off the wrist (outside of clothing in the winter). There are lots and lots of reasons not to use an Apple Watch in place of a Fenix, and I speak as a person who owns one of each (always wear the AW during the day, wear the Fenix only when I’m recording activities on it.)

    • Ian S

      I tried an apple watch for a few months and went back to Garmin. The issues for me with an Apple Watch were –
      1) Closed ecosystem, my activities on my 935 hit Garmin connect and then land in Strava and Training Peaks automatically.
      2) Battery life, 935 gets used for cycling, skiing and hiking. It’s quite often recording a consistent GPS feed for 8-9 hours, an apple watch would struggle to do that
      3) Ant+ sensors, I still have PM’s, HRM that are using Ant+, it’s very handy having a device that can pick up both BT and Ant+
      4) Functionality, the buttons on a Garmin device and the pre-configured fields, layouts, etc are just more useful and usable straight out the box. The apple touch screen is almost unusable if you’re sweating and it just doesn’t have the sports functionality that the Garmin does

      My summary would be that the Apple watch is the best smart watch and is fine for someone who wants to occasionally run around the block, you need something like a Garmin if you’re an athlete and want something to help you train/perform. That gap will probably close over time and the cellular feature of the apple watch means you can leave a phone at home which is very, very compelling.

    • Duncan Andison

      Work outdoors app has good vector mapping, you can upload routes to track & it records health data and other stats … possibly Just as much as the Fenix. I use a Fenix 5& have an Apple watch Series 4. I tend to use the apple watch more as it’s a better Smart Watch & I prefer the Stryd app on Aw. The only time I use my fenix is on the bike. Walking, running & mountaineering are all on my AW now.

  32. Itai

    I can’t understand how at the end of 2019 a smartwach that costs so much is without cellular conectivity. I can not think nowadays running with a phone straped to me or running without cellular conectivity. Although Garmin is more functionable I still prefer the Apple watch due to its cellular capabilities.

    • I could offer a counterpoint: I very much prefer a watch that is not trackable in real-time (like any cellular device is).

      But I’m curious: what makes cellular a “must” for you when running?

    • Puffolino

      +1.0

      I am using Garmin watches for 15 years – and of course I had ideas what could have been done better here and there for each single model (101,201,301,305,….935) – mostly on the software side, but also better screen quality (higher contrast) and size and longer battery life – at no moment I wanted cellular connectivity.

    • Ian S

      Personally I would be very happy to be able to run without my phone yet still be contactable if someone needed me in an emergency or I needed assistance, etc. Seems a very obvious use case.

      Likewise quite often I run when I travel, the ability to look at a map as I’m lost is quite handy.

    • Sure it can be useful, that I agree, but to say it’s a must – that’s what I don’t understand well.

      Ian, aren’t the maps on the Fenix itself enough? Just curious.

    • Joseph

      There are plenty of non-cellular enabled watches so there will be plenty of options for you to stay off the grid. Even if they all adopt a chip, none of them will make you activate it.

      The advantage of it is mostly safety – getting lost, getting hurt, family emergency. I use to run without any device (and enjoyed being off the grid), but after a family emergency I now run with my cell phone tethered to me which I hate. Putting a chip in the watch lets me leave the phone behind but know I can communicate if necessary.

    • Hmm, I think the reason why I didn’t see this as very important was that I mostly bike, and having phone is usually a given. For mostly running, yes, I can imagine the advantage.

    • Eric Buxton

      agreed on cost. I felt like paying $700 or so when the 5x came out was insane, but i wanted the maps. Now it is over $1000 to get the top end model. That is a lot of money for something that will be out of date in a few years. I know laptops and other tech get “old” but I am having a hard time at the $1k point. I still like my 5x though a bigger screen for my old eyes and solar battery extension are starting to add features I want-music: no, payment: no. Skiing-would be nice, but not vital

  33. Daniel

    Great in depth review as usual. One thing I’d like to add is the temporary loss of all 3rd party software with the new Fenix 6 models. This completely threw me for a loop because I didn’t face that when purchasing the previous Fenix. It is also would have influenced my purchasing decision. I would have waited because there is 3rd party software I count on, like ErgIQ.

    • Peter G

      surely that is only a temporary thing until the apps/firmware catches up?

    • Pete Dean

      Actually, a fair few companies have publicly stated that they have not received the fenix 6 SDK yet….

      Unlike in the past, where the screen size / data fields have remained the same , the 6 is different – so that’s presumably why

      It’s a pisser for my stryd usage and also actiface doesn’t work yet!

    • Looks like the Fenix 6 SDK is out and Actiface and Stryd are among the first to be updated.

    • simon

      I can’t seem to add the stryd datafields if I use the 6x “8 field display” – works ok on other layouts

      other connnectIQ datafields seem to have the same problem, not just stryd. Makes the 6x 8 field display a bit useless for me at the moment

      As usual, support suggest a factory reset !

  34. En

    Thanks Ray for this detailed and useful review as always !
    One quick question on a smaller detail
    I was looking at the Nylon band model
    Ever tried this one ? Any comment or added value on confort, sweat absorption… ?
    Also looking in the Nylon bands options, it seems that there is 2 kind of Nylon band finish :
    – Heathered Black Nylon
    – Jacquard-weave Nylon Strap – Heathered
    Not very clear about the differences and which one is included in the corresponding model ?
    And one last clarification about the Sapphire – Black DLC with Heathered Nylon Band model, not sure about the bezel material, seems to be titanium right ?
    Thanks
    En

  35. Nick

    Hiya,

    Just got the 6x Saphire and while device is impressive – I am learning that there is practically NO apps nor watchfaces for it in the CIQ store.

    The ones I really rely on like monthly calendar widget and authenticator are missing and I cannot simply ditch my 935 yet.
    GPS time function is also not working, and maps take 20-30 seconds to load…

  36. Mitja Kuralt

    Please help me.
    I have fenix6
    I have a problem with Sleep Statistics. In the morning when i uplode Sleep Statistics to garmin connect show some data, Than have I trening- cycling ride (about 5h ) or sterntgth trening and after ride I transfere my data to garmin connect. Than I notic that my Sleep Statistics change after I uplode trening data: different REM, deep sleep and light sleep than in the morning. I have take ascreen shot of this if you are intersting.

    Is this normal?

  37. TrailCat

    Great review! Makes me want to upgrade from my 5 Plus after reading about the improved GPS results on the Sony chipset.

    One correction I see, the display size of the 6 has not increased by 17%. The 5 Plus has a 1.2″ circumference so the bump to 1.3″ would mean an 8% increase.

    • Screen size refers to the screen area. Thus, the area of a circle in this case.

      The area of a circle is = Pi*r*r (r = radius, or 0.5d, d = diamter).

      Once you plug all that in, you get:
      1.2″ screen = 1.1304 insq
      1.3″ screen = 1.3267 insq

      The difference being 0.168…or 17% increase.

    • TrailCat

      Wow! Thanks for explaining all that out. Really helpful and makes perfect sense!

      🙂

  38. Andre

    Thanks for one great review.
    I have a question that you may be able to answer: if you use more than one garmin unit (in my case an etrex 30x), will the training load be updated, or it is just based on activities that are in the watch (fenix 6 or 945)?

    • Paul S.

      Probably not with an etrex. Recent Garmin fitness devices do via Connect; training load is shared between my Edge 830 and Fenix 5+, and each one knows a summary of the other’s activities.

  39. alibi

    still want charging port in more convenient for use on the go place..
    and for god sake, garmin, where is white 6x?!

  40. Alex

    Just tried to order the 6 Sapphire/Orange Band from Clever Training US but whenever I click Add to Basket it doesn’t get added?

    Anyone else having similar issues?

    Alex

  41. Nightwalker

    Just wondering on GPS accuracy between the Fenix 6X and the MARQ Athlete. Different case materials make a difference I read recently, so is the ceramic and metal case on the MARQ an issue for the GPS when compared to the same chipset in the plastic case of the 6X?

  42. Marek

    Hi guys,

    anyone has seen Fenix 6 with Sapphire and Gorilla Glass next to each other? It is clear that sapphire is more scratch resistant but some people claim that sapphire is darker. I compared my old Fenix 3 sapphire with FR 645 and Fenix 5 with normal glass and I have to say that while there is slight difference under certain angles and lower light … I would not call this significant at all. Most angles the two screens are near identical. Reflections seems kind of same as well. Anyone has pictures? Is Gorilla glass better from this point of view than the normal mineral glass on previous Garmin watches?

    Thanks!

  43. Justin B

    Yes that is correct. I did the same thing and put a 5X cover on the 6X solar and it does not interfere with the solar charging.

  44. terry cornall

    Curious about the F6x’s ability to create routes that follow hiking tracks or cycling paths or roads. My F5x will do that, though currently it suffers from a number of bugs like getting the elevation profile wrong a lot of the time, and showing ‘0 m to to next turn’ when following the route. Have those bugs been fixed in the F6, I wonder?

    Also very interested in the ultra-long GPS mode which is something I’ve been fervently praying for. The use-case is obvious. Through hiking, where weeks without re-supply is a fact of life and you don’t need detailed accuracy, just the confidence that you haven’t walked off the route.

    The limited zoom on the maps you mentioned bothers me. One needs that navigational context sometimes. The 5x will zoom right out, albeit not fast. It’s not hugely readable sometimes but still essential.

  45. Marcos

    Hi Ray,

    Isn’t the Solar charging hurt the battery life span in terms of cycles?

    Tks.

  46. yannis

    Does anyone knows about the availability of the titanium editions with the titanium bracelet?
    It seems that they are either unavailable in Europe at the sports stores or Garmin will offer them exclusively via generic watch stores.
    The titanium edition with the orange bracelet is available though.

    • George

      Yannis, I received the Titanium / Titanium 6X Solar today. Sept 10, 2019 from REI. Ordered online on August 29, 2019.

      I upgraded from a Fenix 5X. I’ve only had it a few hours. The Orange Silicone band is included…

      George

  47. Egil

    Is the existing sensors and features improved compared to the Fenix5? Would you say its a noticeable improvement a) the optical Heart-rate and b) first-beat features such as recovery estimate?

  48. Jordi

    Ray, do you know if Garmin plans on using the solar cells of the 6X Solar line for anything else besides charging? For example, since it can measure solar intensity could in theory be used as a light sensor for automatic theme/watchface switching?

    • Not sure on any other purposes. I know there’s a lot they want to do with things like charge stats and stuff though that didn’t make the first software release. So expect that to mature.

      Insofar as watchface theme/switching, etc, or doing ‘creative’ things. One of the things I’ve learned over the years from talking to Garmin is they they tend to be somewhat conservative on things like that. Meaning, they’ll usually be able to give you a pretty detailed engineering reason on why that works 95% of the time, but then the 5% it doesn’t work causes a balloon in support calls.

      Obviously, as I’ve pointed out – doesn’t mean they always get it right. But just my hunch.

    • Jordi

      Cheers Ray! I was debating whether to go for the 6X Sapphire or the Pro Solar and besides the glass difference I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss on potential cool uses for the panels.

      Kick-ass review as always!

  49. Marc

    Any word on whether UltaTrac has been fixed in the F6? That would be a huge change in usable battery life for all Garmins.

  50. James Hughes

    As far as I tried to find a solar f6x I can’t find one available right now at the US, seems like have to wait till Early October.

  51. Alexander Momberger

    Thany you for your comprehensive review, Ray!
    I already have my Fenix 6x and I think it is awesome! However I still have a huge complaint:
    Why does garmin not use the bigger resolution of the 1,4”-screen to display more than two datafields on the map-page? Could you try to find out why the refuse to give the user the option of having 4 datafields on the map-page? I want that option badly!

    And I have an other question:
    Did you test the influence of the feature ‘continuous elevation correctio during activity’ when you were hiking in the alps? I don’t think that feature is doing anything.. I do have EU-maps and the DEM-map on my garmin watch, but after ‘correcting’ the elevation-data of an activity within garmin connect, there is always a HUGE discrepancy between the watch measurement and the ‘corrected’ data. The Corrected is always much, much higher.
    So, why is there a discrepancy, if the measured elevation is continuously corrected on the device? Could you ask garmin?

  52. TheFlyingman

    Hi Ray,
    thank you for your comprehensive review.

    I’ve got one question though – would you know if there is any list of SKU numbers available?

    I’ve found out that e.g. Fenix 6 Sapphire Carbon Gray DLC with Black Band is available in US as 010-02158-10, while in Germany it is 010-02158-11, the same applies to Black DLC with Heathered Red Nylon Band/010-02158-16 vs. Schwarzes DLC mit rotmeliertem Nylon-Armband/010-02158-17 (for which the band pictured is anything but red). It is similar to the rest of the models as far as I can tell.

    Are those differences to SKU numbers caused by, I don’t know, different maps that are preloaded?

    Cheers

  53. Ian S

    Ray, when you get a chance could you add a the weights section into the review? Especially compared to a 945. I’m using the Garmin weights at the moment but would prefer to go on your independent view. Thx

  54. Ivan

    Is there a) manual lap possibility in triathlon (multisport mode) during run
    or/and b) possibility of using pacepro in Triathlon run

    And – just to say it again – native power would be great thing…

    • No manual lap in triathlon mode, though automatic lap is still possible.

      I haven’t tried doing PacePro in multisport mode, you might be able to engage it after the run has started. I’ll give it a whirl later and report back.

    • Ivan

      Thanks! I’ll try pace pro during multisport too – but without watch that is -… pretty complicated 🙂

    • Ok, I just tried. Best I can tell, there’s no way of doing it. You can’t get to the PacePro menu from inside the run (pre or during) of a multisport activity.

      I’ll ask Garmin tomorrow (today is a holiday in the US and I think I’ve lit enough unrelated fires over the weekend already in that camp). I suspect this probably falls into the realm of the various things they want to tackle via updates.

    • Ivan

      Thanks for quick look.

      Maybe easiest “update” for sport (and multisport) functionality is allow native run power from other devices. Thats just (my) opinion.

  55. João Veiga

    Hi
    Thanks for the review
    I had a Garmin Fénix 5 and then I get back to my old 735. This was because in two marathons the fenix gave me 2 more kms and the 735 worked perfectly.
    And in another race inside a park the fenix 5 struglled and the 735 worked againd perfectly.

    Now I will need to change and I don’t know if i will choose the 945 or fenix 6 pro

    What do you think abou GPS accuracy? Because 2kms in a marathon seems a lot to fail

    • I’ve got a whole section on GPS accuracy above – where it does well, and where it doesn’t.

      In general, with GPS accuracy you have to really look at the tracks. Take the marathon for example – I’d agree 2KM over is a fair bit. At the same time, if you’re 735 told you the exact same distance as the marathon, then I’d easily be able to tell you that’s wrong. Nobody except the race leaders following a painted line can run a perfect marathon* route/track. Some more details on that: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Usually the actual track you ran lies somewhere in the middle.

      *Fun titdibt: The Paris marathon actually paints the exact measured race line on the ground, across the entire city. It’s kinda neat.

    • João Veiga

      Probably I explained me bad. The 735 marked 42,66Km while the fenix marked 44,72.
      And in a garden the whole track of fenix was outside the park.
      So between the 945 and the fenix 6 what would you choose for GPS accuracy?
      Thanks for your help

    • GPS-accuracy those two devices seem to be a wash to me.

    • Why not use a footpod? They’re much more accurate for pace (which I believe is very important for long efforts) and should also be more precise for distance. See link to fellrnr.com.

  56. Seb

    Hi Ray – No running power with Fenix 6 series at the moment, correct?

  57. Manuel

    you mentioned that with iOS you can’t respond to notifications. Is this the case with Android as well? I would like to know if you can respond to whatsapp and skype chats for example. Great review!!!

  58. Torinsall

    Just ordered a Fenix 6 Pro but have one question…if we put a Garmin Cadence Sensor 2 on our recumbent exercise bike, will that send data to the Fenix 6 Pro and chart heart rate plus cadence over time? That way we can log indoor “rides” on nasty weather days.

  59. john

    Can you answer texts and phone calls from Android phone?

    • youpmelone

      that would be helpful! so i guess not..

    • John

      So a $600 “smart” watch without tight smartphone integration?

      I want the GPS stuff, but I also want to see notifications without pulling my phone out of my pocket. Too much to ask?

    • If on an Android phone you can respond to text messages. Here’s how to do it on the Fenix 5 series, I haven’t tried it on the Fenix 6, since I’m largely an iOS person:

      link to www8.garmin.com

      As for answering calls, there’s no microphone inside the Fenix 6, so answering calls is simply accepting the call and having the phone pick it up.

    • Paul S.

      Oh, you’ll see the notifications. With an iPhone you won’t be able to do much about them, with Android maybe more. But you will see them.

      But who said this is a “smart watch”? It’s for other purposes.

  60. john ataun

    I am a Fenix 6 pro owner (had a fenix 5 before), and I miss some things:

    1- Wikiloc app (I thought apps were compatible with all garmeni fenix devices, but it is not in the connect iq store)
    2- stryd power measuring. Since stryd power is not in the connect iq store and the fenix 6 does not let me add a custom iq data field, I can only use stryd as a normal pootpod, but not as a power meter.

    Do you know if they are planning to solve this soon?

    • Both need to be listed by the app owners as compatible (meaning, it’s not a Garmin thing).

      That said, I honestly think it’s pretty silly Garmin just doesn’t mark everything as compatible and an app owner can ‘undo it’ if required. This is a really good example of: ‘If it works for Apple, it’ll work here’.

      (Note: There are countless examples where that’s not true, but this isn’t one of them).

    • Dom

      Going by this post in the Garmin forums it is probably not as simple as that in this case – jim is a seriously expert Connect IQ guru & points out that where possible that kind of auto migration has been done in the past. And the devs don’t have access yet to the SDK to release for the 6 series – they’re waiting for Garmin here.

    • Interesting. I’ve got some meetings with Garmin this week (including tomorrow), so I’ll try and get to the bottom of it.

      Ultimately though, I don’t think it’s really acceptable (no matter how we slice it).

    • Dom

      don’t think it’s really acceptable

      No disagreement there!

    • just copy across the .prg files from your (eg) Fenix 5 to the same folder on the F6.

      They SHOULD work but there’s always a risk.

      i copied across crystal,stryd and humon….seems fine

    • Dom

      Thanks. I would not want to be without my Stryd at the moment, doing some power focused training/racing to see what it does for me, and gaps in the record are bad for the trend tracking.

  61. JR

    So it appears that there is native support for SMO2? Does that mean Moxy/Humon? Seems surprising that they’d go that direction before including power natively.

    • They’ve actually had it for a few years. Either 2 or 3 years, I can’t remember off-hand. Was trying to find my old post on it, but Google has failed me.

    • JR

      No kidding. I always assumed the reason I was seeing those Moxy and Humon apps in the IQ store was because there wasn’t native support.

    • Humon say NOT to pair their sensor to your Garmin device and use their CIQ data fields instead of the native metrics. The CIQ fields silently pair by themselves (like STRYD) and an ANT+ ID can be forced in Garmin Express.

      Humon data shows fine on Wahoo’s native SmO2 so it should also work on the native fields in Garmin.

      I had a moment of madness and tried the Humon Hex with MOXY’s CIQ fields and, IIRC, it worked. The reason to use MOXY’s apps would be as they have pre-canned tests that you can follow.

      Funnily enough, Humon didn’t recommend using MOXY’s data fields/apps.

  62. youpmelone

    my thinking: let’s take the version that makes most sense, prob with solar. Scroll through review, go through comments sections with bit more detail hit order.. Done.

    Wait.. what? a proprietary charge cable?? I a travel a LOT and charge cables are like socks..
    But no worries the i’ll just charge wireless… Go through table to find wireless charging options.
    None? wtf…

    I don’t mind the price, I do mind the 3 USD cable that will be impossible to get on any airport..
    This makes a great watch useless (or i could learn to never forget and loose charge cables..)

    • Ahh, c’mon youpmelone, you’ve been around this block long enough to know the Garmin charging cables. There’s no surprise there for you.

      But, for anyone else – here’s why these companies use proprietary charging cable: They don’t kill your watch.

      Seriously, that’s it. Using a standard like micro-USB, mini-USB, or USB-C on a wearable down to 100m is a non-starter. Polar tried on the M400 (a watch with a much lower waterproofing standard), it went horrifically. They’ve never made that mistake again. There just aren’t good options for both waterproof and sweatproof USB-standard ports on the market.

      As for wireless charging – that could be a legit request. If only there was a standard for coil size. For example, you can’t charge my Apple Watch on Samsung’s wireless charging USB battery pack (I can charge the Samsung watch on it though). And take my Stryd pod and try and charge it on an generic wireless charging pad? Nope, won’t work either. Though oddly, if you position it just perfectly it will charge on an Ikea one. But again, not an Apple Watch charging dock.

      The challenge with wireless charging and wearables is the coin alignment and size is so perfect/small that more or less you have to have custom pads for them. Or, you have to have a pad with so many coils that it just works – sorta what AirPower was supposed to be. I suspect there will be a day that Garmin gets there, but it’s not that day today – and I don’t think it really is for any other wearable either. Even finding an Apple Watch charger in an airport is near impossible (finding a person though wearing an Apple Watch to borrow their charger is easy though).

  63. Rainer Jabs

    Do you have any information on the durability of the solar screen vs the sapphire? Also, if UK clever will get the titanium version with titanium band?

  64. Kelley

    Great Review. I used your link to purchase a Fenix 6S through Clever Training. Quick question. I’m doing a non-standard triathlon that is a bike-swim-run-swim-run-swim and Garmin only allows 5 activities in creating a custom multi-sport profile. It does allow repeats, but the bike segment of my race doesn’t repeat, only the swim-run repeats. Do you have any suggestions as to how to record the race together? Is it easy for Garmin to make an update to allow more than 5 activities? The best option I could come up with to keep a total running time for the whole event is to select Triathlon, change the activities to Bike-swim-run, turn “repeat” on, then just skip over the bike repeats with the lap button? Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Kelley

    • Paul N.

      You could also use the Change Sport feature. You can assign it to a hot key and change sports on the fly and as far as I know there is no limit. When you do this there will be an additional data page added that will show total time so you can keep track of that.

      A couple of caveats though: as far as I know there is no way to include transitions when doing this, it just goes from one sport to the next so you’d have to include your transition time as part of one of the legs; it takes a little bit longer to switch since instead of just hitting lap you have to hold the hot key and then select the next sport from the menu; the last time I used the change sport feature when I uploaded to Connect each leg showed up as a separate activity instead of combined into a multisport activity, this may have changed since then but just something to keep in mind if that’s important to you.

  65. mg

    HRV — how does the quality of the HRV from the optical sensor compare to the that collected from the strap? Is there any way to quantify? Are certain metrics based on HRV affected more than others? I’m ready to stop using a strap, but worried about “garbage in/garbage out”. Thx

  66. Chad Crowe

    Really great review. This helped me choose the base model over the 6x Pro. Thanks for the great info!

  67. Joseph

    Why do you think they left LTE out of this series? Are they giving up on that or is it something they are still working out? I love my Garmin, but hate having to lug around my phone for emergencies. Would be great if they’d finally bake this in to the Fenix line.

    • JJS

      I can’t understand the crying for LTE! For emergency cases I got myself a mini cellphone that has the size of my thumb. It fits in every pocket of my running shorts and cost 15 Euro. This one works in every country in the world while LTE with the Apple Watch f.e. could only be used at home (no roaming possible). And for other reasons my understanding is even less: Streaming music, reading messages while running? Sorry, I’m happy to have one hour per day being offline. So why putting another power-soaker inside the watch?

    • George A Kalogeris

      @JJS
      Please give me a link of that tiny cellphone.
      Very good idea

    • Michel ROELANDT

      @jjs

      Could you provide more info on that type of phone?
      On my running/Biking I only need an emergency phone. Thanks

    • JJS

      The one I own is a L8STAR BM10. You can search on amazon or ebay to find it. Works very well and has Dual-Sim either!

  68. Tellef Dønnestad

    Can there be any variasjon in satelite reseption from a stainless steel Fenix, to a plastic 945 or a titanium Fenix?

  69. Itai

    I go out running, cycling and sea swimming twice in the middle of the week for about 1-2 hours and in the weekend for about 3 hours. sometimes i ho trail running in the woods alone.. being connected is a huge benefit that I can not do without no more. taking a phone for these activities is impossible so the connected watch is a must for me.. Furthermore I thing that in 2020 a connectedless watch is obsolete 😉

  70. Perchero

    Quick question about bezels color:
    In the last picture (DSC_5911), solar model (carbon grey bezel) appears on the left and another model with the black bezel on the right. Correct?
    They practically look the same color…

  71. muly

    is the fenix 6x pro has the Auto Activity Start Feature like the vivoactive 3?

  72. KJ

    I love this – am hugely tempted to get the 6s now that it’s less bulky.

    Is there any chance you could add comparison photos of the 6s and the 645 (or any other relevant models, but 645 is what I have and what, for my taste, is clearly the best Garmin for style … until this new 6s and probably the vivoactive bunch that’s about to come out).

    Thanks!
    Kristina

  73. En

    Hello everyone,
    Just a quick confirmation as the materials finish are not always clear on Garmin site
    For the Sapphire – Black DLC model (Ref 010-02158-17) not sure about the bezel material, seems to be titanium right ?

    Thanks
    En

    • En

      Hello,
      Anyone got this information?
      I reached Garmin support and even them cannot answer…
      Even so as I understood, the bezel material remain in Titanium (therefore keeping a little lighter model) and the DLC (DLC stands for “Diamond Like Carbon”) is like a coating finish to make it look black and even more scratch resistance
      DLC being pretty much the sapphire crystal of watch coatings as far as scratch resistance is concerned.
      Not sure if this is the right explanation?

      Thanks for any confirmation or correction

      En

    • En

      Hello,
      Sorry to insist but anyone has the answer ?
      As it would be one of the topic to make my final choice
      Thanks for your feedback if any
      En

  74. Hello,
    One thing I have been missing on my Garmin watches is the ability to charge the watch during an activity. For instance Suunto is supporting this. If you plug in yuor Suunto to a batterypack during an activity it will continue to record the activity and charge at the same time. None of my Garmin watches have ever been possible to charge this way, they always go into charging mode and recording activity stops.
    How about this watch, does it support charging during an activity?
    Br
    D

    • Yup, it supports it.

      In fact, almost all Garmin’s do. There was a period of about 18-24 months back a few years ago where they didn’t. But basically anything made in the last 3 years, or prior to about ~2015 supported it just fine.

    • Ben Young

      I can charge and record on my Fenix 3 HR.
      On that I had to go into Settings > System > USB Mode and set USB Mode to Garmin.

      Once you’ve done that you can charge and record activities at the same time.

      I can only presume you have to do the same thing in the settings with newer watches too??

    • Scott

      I have done this successfully with my older 310XT and 910. It charged just fine while recording but, the display was not usable. I haven’t tried with my Edge or Fenix.

    • Ben Young

      On my Fenix 3HR once the USB Mode is set to Garmin and you connect it to the charger there’s nothing to tell you that it’s actually charging, even though it is.
      It simply functions like normal.

    • JR

      Of course, charging while recording is a lot easier with clip-style cables than with the Fenix plugs.

    • Scott

      Very true! That’s probably the last thing the design engineers are thinking regarding charging ports and cords.

  75. Scott Hunter

    Can anyone tell me if lap pace on the Fenix 6S is more accurate / stable than on the Forerunner 645 (which is really erratic at the start of a mile lap), and GPS / antenna performance in general compared to the Forerunners – thanks

  76. Thomas D

    Comprehensive and good review as always, but missing some of the critisism that could be mentioned. After getting my F6 Pro as an upgrade for my F3 HR, I’m very happy about it, but there are some minor annoyances:

    Processing power: I was expecting the F6 to be a lot more responsive on any action that my old F3 – and mostly it is snappy, and things like sattelite aquisition is a lot quicker. But new things like maps take a while to display. Generating courses on the F6 takes even longer. I get tired of watching the spinning circle in this time of instant gratification 🙂

    The music player is great for leaving the phone at home, and the fenix quickly and effortlessly connects to my Airpods 1gen. However, there is the occasional glitch in the music streaming. Measured in milliseconds, but a small annoyance that I never get with my Airpods connected to my iPhone.

    The other slight let-down with the Spotify music player is the low bit rate quality. S’es and f’s makes a hissing sound, and the bass is not as deep, full or precise as on my iPhone or on other music systems playing from Spotify. The music isn’t as engaging. I’m not a hi-fi geek, and not as much as changing to Tidal to get super high bit rate, but I do enjoy higher bit rates and good quality on my music streaming. Hopefully the Spotify app can be made to allow for higher quality bit rate transfers in exchanger for fewer songs? Or would it also be a hardware issue for the F6 to process larger music files?

    I also think the old F3 feels even more solid, and the buttons give a higher quality feel when pressed. The solidity might be due to the F3 just being bigger and heavier. I also must say like the design of the F3 better with its more rounded edges and matte bezel. The F6 has a kind of Tag Heuer et al look-alike complex. But I get that taste in design and looks are subjective 🙂

    These are all small annoyances rather than big flaws with the F6, but at close to $1000, I think it’s allowed to be nit-picking.

    But the F6 is mostly all good, and I do love going into all the new features. And more than any small flaws or design choices, the real value is in everyday use:

    Today I left my smartphone at home and put on my F6 and went for a run. It was wonderful not having the big phone along! The F6 quickly locked onto GPS signal, and off I went. Up into the mountains surrounding my city, enjoying the silence and nature, then back down towards the city center. Putting on my Airpods and turning on the music on the F6 quickly found the airpods and started playing, while also delivering audio running metrics at intervals. After descending to the city, I ran over to my favourite café, not worrying about having left my credit card at home, as the F6 handled the transaction smoothly through Garmin Pay, letting me reward myself with a post-run coffee in the sun. Life’s good.

    • goodwood

      How have you found the weight of the 6Pro while running? I was originally planning to get the Forerunner 945 but the 6Pro features are great for hiking/backpacking as well. My only concern is the weight.

    • Itai

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Thomas D

      I guess that’s a subjective thing. The Forerunners are (a little) lighter. But I’m used to much heavier watches from the old ages, aka mechanical watches 🙂 I’m also coming from the F3, and the F6 feels lighter/less hefty.

      Personally, I don’t see the weight as a problem. If you feel you notice it in the beginning, I think it’s something you’ll get used too, and after a week or so of wearing it all day, every day, you’ll hardly notice it.

      I got the F6 for hiking/backpacking as well as running and everyday wear. I think the F6 is a great compromise that works well for all those areas. Your milage might vary.

  77. Raul V.

    I’m pretty sure most readers would rather see rounded prices. All these 9’s are just ‘polution’. 1.199 = 1.200. Ridiculous!!

  78. emilio

    thanks for the update but i’ll stick to my fenix3. can’t find any new features worth the investment

  79. JG

    Excellent review!
    I’ve a question on the titanium bracelet version of the Fenix 6:
    – in most specs online incl Garmin looks as if with the bracelet it is equal in weight to the rubber strap. Is this really the case? Eg the Marq aviator in full titanium is much heavier with titanium bracelet than rubber version.
    – I know probably not the intended use, but is it an option at all to go running with the titanium bracelet on? (So not having to change to rubber every time). Any experience here from earlier models?

    Many Thanks!

    • volodp

      To answer your second question. I sometimes run with my F5 with a metal bracelet. You can definitely feel the extra weight and it’s certainly worth it to change it for the rubber band if you have that choice but it’s not impossible to run with it if you have to. I also prefer my metal bracelet to not sit too tightly on my wrist so optical HR doesn’t work too well when running with it. But with a snugly fastened rubber band it works pretty well.

  80. Petteri

    Thanks for the review and discount code! However, a bit disappointed on Clever Training EU/UK response and the way they seem to manage the stock and my order. Ordered on Friday (Aug 30) when 6X Sapphire was in stock expecting for immediate shipping (and did expedited shipping +25 euros). After enquiring today, they simply have stated “we are expecting shipping your Garmin week commencing 16th September…”

    That is not “in stock” by any means, or then I just have a different understanding how reliable online retailers work. And the CT EU/UK website still shows for new 6X Sapphire orders “ships in 5-7 business days”. Not a good first experience…

  81. Daniel Seifer

    As always, thank you very much for putting the time into this.

    One question that no one has been able to answer for me about the Garmin Devices with Topo / full maps – do the GPS ‘Ultratrac’ numbers (the ‘Max Battery GPS’ setting) reference the device while still showing the Topo maps? Or are the topo maps / full maps something that are only ‘on’ while in normal GPS mode.

    Essentially what I’m wondering is, for example on the 6s, if I am hiking and want to use full topographic/info-dense maps & GPS but *no* other features – which quoted ballpark battery life figure is relevant, the ~25hr or the ~50hr? What about is I want to use only three features: topo-maps, GPS, *and* optical HR?

    I appreciate anyone who can shed even a little light on this, as those of us hoping for 5-6 day long expedition use (~8-10hr device-on time a day; turned fully off when camp is reached) would find it quite valuable information. Thank you!

    • Thomas D

      Would also be interested in any info on battery life in this setting..

      I’m also looking forward to testing Ultratrac mode on the F6, as I found it mostly useless on my former F3. Ultratrac put me all over the mountain, and was just good for localising my hike to a general area than actual tracking my route, much less getting any useful hiking distance. I’m hoping the F6 is an improvement in that area, too. Any info would be great.

    • Peter G

      Hi Daniel, I own the forerunner 945, which is very similar to this watch. I recently used the watch for an ultra distance mountain run that required navigation. I used the watch in gps with 1 sec recording,optical heart rate monitor on and detailed topomap active for 16 hours straight and was nowhere near depleting the battery. I do not remember the exact percentage left but It could have gone several more hours. An important note is I did not zoom in and out of the map constantly for 16 hours, and I did have stuff like bluetooth and fancy watch faces turned off- The new batery modes will help you do this on the fenix 6s. On the other hand during the race I did also had long periods of time where I was changing the zoom level to see details of the track and landscape. In short, it will definitly get you through one or several long days of hiking. And charging the watch is also fast with a proper powerbank which can handle the relativly low batery capacity of the watch.

  82. Daniel

    Does the Fenix 6 have Atrial Fibrillation detection like the apple watch? I like that feature but want a watch that has better battery life.