I’m DC RAINMAKER…
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Tag Archives: Garmin Tactix
It is closing on nearly two years since Garmin initially announced the first generation Fenix in June 2012. Since then the watch has transformed from what was originally seen as a hiking focused unit, to more of an ultra-runner’s unit, to finally settling in on a full-fledged multisport watch as seen now in the recently announced Fenix2.
I’ve spent the last six or so weeks with the unit, putting it through daily activities across a wide variety of sports. Last week, the Fenix2 started hitting retail outlets as the firmware moved into the production state. In the past week alone however, even further unannounced additional features have been added. Nonetheless, it’s time for my full in-depth review.
To be clear, Garmin sent me over a Fenix2 to start testing with until retail availability. Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Olathe, KS, in the next few days and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels. That’s just the way I roll.
Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed. So – with that intro, let’s get into things
The Fenix2 comes boxed in two variations: One with just the watch, and one with a heart rate strap. Specifically, the HRM-RUN. I’ll dive more into the HRM-RUN later on, but it’s an important distinction compared to previous ANT+ enabled straps, as far as enabling advanced functionality on the Fenix2.
Inside the box splits into three pieces, two of which contain the goods. The third just sits there and looks pretty.
If you dump out the contents of those two boxes to the left, you’ll see the below. Note that the non-bundle version does not contain the heart rate strap (the two left pieces).
I’ll go ahead and walk through each of the components in the box.
First up, the power adapters. Note that some readers have asked what the difference is between the US and European editions are. It’s simple: It’s just the power adapter for the USB power block. That’s it. You can still use your Fenix2 with any USB port in the world, and you can still use the power adapter with a 99 cent adapter in any outlet in the world. So don’t fret too much there.
Next we’ve got the HRM-RUN heart rate strap. This ANT+ capable strap transmits your heart rate strap to the Fenix2 (as well as any ANT+ device in range that’s been paired with it). In that way, the HRM-RUN is just like any other ANT+ strap. However, it also has a secondary private channel that carries with it additional information only accessible to Garmin devices, that constitute the Running Dynamics pieces. So while you can use the Fenix2 with any ANT+ strap, you won’t get some of the Running Dynamics pieces without it. Also, it’s $40 cheaper to buy the bundle than the two separately (usually, it’s a wash price-wise).
Next, Garmin decided to toss in a fabric strap. This can be used with the screws and pieces seen below to replace the plastic strap. This is useful because it goes quite a bit larger, enabling you to place it over ski coats and the like.
You’ll use these two little incredibly sharp screwdrivers to remove the pins. It’s a two hand job. Ok, I guess that came out wrong.
Finally, we get to the watch itself. If you’re a past Fenix/Tactix user, you’ll notice a few changes up front. First, the buttons have been changed around. This (in my opinion) makes the flow much cleaner, and much easier to navigate. It also mirrors the Garmin Forerunner line. Second, you’ll notice the display is ‘inverted’, which means its white text on black background. This is non-changeable.
On the back, you’ll find the charging pins. The unit connects to a USB charger I’ll show you in a second. The reason the Fenix2 (and most other well waterproofed watches) use contacts like these to charge versus using a standard micro-USB or mini-USB port is for waterproofing purposes.
Here’s the USB charging cable. The cable can be used both to charge the unit, as well as to transfer workouts/tracks/routes/waypoints/maps/etc… Garmin provides apps for PC and Mac, but the device enumerates as a standard USB mass storage device, so that functionality will work fine on other operating systems like Linux.
The clip snaps onto the back, thus it would be able to pass the ‘ceiling fan’ test, which tests whether or not the charging clip is strongly enough attached to the Fenix2 to tie one end to a ceiling fan and turn it on. Aside from being fun, the more practical implication of this is that you can charge it on the go, without worrying about a finicky connection.
With everything unboxed, let’s see how it stacks up against other units.
Size & Weight Comparisons:
As always, I’ve combined all the competitive units in the running and triathlon segment together for you to get a feel for how they compare size-wise. Roughly speaking, the bigger ones are on the left side – and those are the ones we’re mostly comparing between.
Below, from left to right: Adidas Smart Run GPS, Suunto Ambit 2, Polar V800, Garmin Fenix2, Suunto Ambit 2R.
Next, I’ve flipped it over so you can see the depth of the units themselves.
If you look at the Fenix1 and Fenix2, you’ll see they are virtually identical. After all, they are basically twins, just not identical twins. On the visible side, the button layout changed. On the internal guts side, the unit received a slight change in the accelerometer to enable the swimming tracking scenarios, that wouldn’t have been fully possible with the same level of accuracy with the accelerometer that’s contained in the Fenix1/Tactix units.
And remember, these watches are part of a longer line of siblings that share nearly identical physical hardware, but change in software – from the Quatix for marine use, to the D2 for pilots.
For those that haven’t followed along on the Fenix journey, the Fenix1 actually has received substantial updates over the last 4-5 months. In fact, outside of multisport mode, power meter support (cycling), and swimming support – the Fenix1 gains almost all the features of the Fenix2. Even things like mobile phone uploads and satellite pre-caching. These features were introduced in beta recently, and will ultimately be brought to full production status on those units as well. However, neither the Fenix1 nor the Tactix will get the Fenix2-only features like swimming, multisport or power meter support. Expect to see Garmin cease manufacturing of those units by summer.
One minor little tidbit that I thought was interesting – the Fenix2 strap is slightly longer than the Fenix1 strap:
Next, while you’ll see the watch on my wrist throughout the review, I did briefly want to include what it looks like on a smaller female wrist – in this case, my wife. She’s tiny, and her wrist size is 14cm (or 5.5 inches).
She found it heavy for her, but I pretty much said the same thing when I wore it initially. She hasn’t spent any time running with it though, nor getting used to it.
Finally, when it comes to weights, here’s a lineup of the devices you’re most likely to compare:
The key difference in weight between the Fenix1 and Fenix2 really comes from the change to the back plate on the unit.
And for fun, here’s two more units you’re likely to compare:
As you can see, weight-wise they’re all basically in the same camp. Note that for the FR910XT, I had the quick-release kit on there, which likely adds a tiny bit of weight.
With comparisons done, let’s head onto actually using the product.
Please note: My Final Fenix2 In-Depth Review is now available and published here. Today, Garmin announced their latest watch – the Fenix2. This unit builds upon the first generation Fenix unit that was initially released in the summer of 2012. … Read More Here
Yesterday, Garmin quietly rolled out a ‘beta’ update to their Fenix & Tactix lineup, which are their watches previously/primarily aimed at ultra-runners and those wanting hiking/navigational capabilities. For Garmin, firmware updates – let alone beta ones, rarely have massive new … Read More Here