on June 18, 2013
Garmin Fenix is quite possible a hunter's or those that travel in the back countries best tool. There are many good technical reviews of the Garmin Fenix. My goal is to field test the Fenix from a hunter or backpackers point of view. The Fenix is so versatile and wears so many hats, its impossible to narrow its target user down to a particular activity. One thing to keep in mind with the Garmin Fenix is that everything, and I mean "everything is customizable. You set up the display info for your needs. It would be impossible to list or capture the unlimited combinations.
(One of many customizable time displays....see pics)
After owning many GPS navigational watches, I feel the Garmin Fenix is the market leader for Hunters, Fisherman, Backpackers, Campers, Fireman, Search and Rescue, etc.... The theme is anyone that travels deep in the mountains or may find themselves caught in a survival situation without communication or back-up. The best GPS is useless if you dont have it on you when you need it and thats why a GPS watch worn as a everyday watch makes the most sense. The Garmin Fenix is a larger watch but not any larger than a typical ABC watch. A big advantage is that it uses standard 26mm lugs so your strap choices are limitless. The factory Fenix straps are very comfortable and pliable. I especially like the orange strap but I also purchased a few other straps just to mix it up and show the possibilities of the case design. As a guy with a 7" wrist, I can easily wear the Fenix as your every day watch. If you can wear a Casio G-shock or Suunto Core, the Fenix will feel right as home. The GPS antenna is also incorporated into the watch case making it look like a traditional watch. No odd antenna bumps or protrusions like other GPS watches. I find the watch attractive and purposeful looking. Its got a solid build with a stainless steel smooth case back for comfort. Display is sharp and crisp with very good detailed graphs,icons,etc...
Don't worry about swimming with the Fenix because it is WR rated to 50M. 50M is fine for swimming but not snorkeling so any outdoor activity around or in the water, the Fenix has you covered.
The battery is a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can be charged via any USB port. Garmin didn't cheap out and includes a AC adapter with the watch. Battery life is reported as 16-50 hours (GPS mode); 2 weeks (sensor mode); 6 weeks (watch mode). There are a lot of factors on how long your battery will last between charging but all the factors can be individually adjusted on the watch. Once again flexibility is were Garmin thinks ahead of its competitors.
Garmin is no doubt the world leader in GPS devises and they used their prowess by creating a GPS watch that still has many of the same features as their hand held devices.
(Satellite info display....see pics)
You also do not need any proprietary software to use the Fenix. Plug its charging/synch cable into your computer and it is instantly recognized as a storage device. You can easily move or transfer way-points, maps, or tracks. The Garmin Fenix comes with a rudimentary base map but there are several 3rd party maps that are more detailed that you can load onto your Fenix. Just remember there is a limited amount of on board memory so you will not be squeezing a entire Countries road map onto the device. I managed to put a 300 square mile map of central/north central Pennsylvania that includes all the roads, log roads and towns. This took up very little memory and gives lots of extra room for tracks and way-points.
This is more than enough information and can get me out of a jam if I get lost deep in the mountains and need to find a log road to pack out on. (You will see this map in many of my pics).
I found my self reviewing the map from my tree stand by panning and zooming around the map. You do not need to be connected to the satellites to do this and it was very educational for hunting new areas. No other watch uses maps directly on the watch and lets you use the Fenix like a traditional hand held GPS. You can transfer all your tracks and waypoints to Garmin's Basecamp or even Google Earth, but you dont have to and that is a big difference with other GPS watches. This is one of the biggest and should not be underestimated advantages of the Garmin Fenix over any other GPS watch. Once you have this capability, all others seem like last years cell phone.
All the moon and sun info you could every want. There is even a moon phase icon displayed on the main time display and it changes from moon to sun info pending on the time of the day.
(This is a more detailed moon sun display. You can also scroll to different dates for that info)
From a hunters point of view, I can scout new areas, mark buck rubs and scrapes, new treestands, food sources, plot enter and exit tracks to and from my tree stand all on the watch without the need for a computer.
A hunting and fishing report for the best times are calculated for your exact location. You can also scroll days ahead to plan the best times.
Take your scouting to the next level and you can walk various game trails a plot the movement of the mountain just from the Fenix. Transfer this data to a satellite map like Google earth and you have the best recon/lintel you can get for your specific area. After the shot you can mark your blood trail and come back the next day if the weather changes on you. No more tying ribbons on trees in the middle of the night to mark the last know blood drop. Speaking of the middle of the night, the Fenix has a flashlight mode that can be programed to any one of its buttons as a "hot key". When you hold the designated button down, the screen goes blank and the back light is turned up to 100%. It is very effective and bright. Once again, Garmin is thinking outside the box for the end user.
The ABC functions are very good with a very detailed and sensitive Barometer graph for predicting weather trends.
Multi axis compass with multiple displays were very accurate and easy to use.
As a watch the Fenix will give you any time displays you want with multiple time zones at one time. Unlimited alarms with the ability for a tone or vibration or both is class leading.
Garmin has been very proactive keeping the watch and satellite info up to date with regulate firmware updates.
I consider myself pretty picky with navigational watches and the Garmin Fenix surpassed my expectations. Just when you think you found every option, you find a shortcut or feature. With a watch that is constantly evolving by a world leader in GPS technology, you are sure to have a great explorer companion always on your wrist when you need it.
on April 11, 2013
I'm not going to go into much detail about the features as, they are covered everywhere. Instead I'll generalize.
FEATURES & MENU NAVIGATION - One important thing to consider is that there are a LOT of features and menu options in this watch. I have literally spent a week up to now just exploring and testing features and functions. There are so many options that quick access to data can be tedious if you don't know what you're doing. My advice is to first figure out what data you want to be viewing the most, and then customize your menus and options for quickest access to what you want to see. If you find yourself sitting down fiddling with it somewhere out in the field, you know you haven't spent enough time optimizing your configurations in advance. Outdoor life is for adventure, not for boring your friends while they wait for you to adjust your gadgetry.
AS A DAILY WRIST WATCH - There are WAY better options than this for a day-today watch. In Watch Mode (GPS off), this watch's Up/Down buttons force you to scroll through compass, altimeter, barometer, temperature, and then back to the time screen. This makes no sense. As a watch you should be able to just view data like stopwatch, countdown timer, alarms, etc. In Watch mode these screens are not reconfigurable. What's worse, is that after each 30 seconds of inactivity, the next press of a button forces you to wait up to 2 seconds while the "busy" image appears - this is represented by a circle of double arrows. So throughout the day when you press a button to view various data, you have "wait".
AS A FITNESS WATCH - I don't intend to use it this way, but most people agree that Garmin's Forerunner series is more geared for this type of activity. The Fenix does have decent functionality for this, but most agree it's not optimized for fitness and training.
ABOUT THE GPS - Arguably the best GPS watch on the market as of 4/2013, this watch acquires satellites fairly quickly. However, the GPS doesn't register any better accuracy than 60 feet. My Garmin Dakota 20 gets within anywhere from 3 - 20 feet. While that may be ok if you're trying to find a museum or a house or lake, you're going to have a heck of a time finding micro geocaches! As for the viewing screens, they ARE completely customizable in GPS Tracking/Navigation modes, so you can configure any number of pages to display any type of data you like, and you can even combine up to 2 types of data of your choice.
CYCLING - It's good. Very nice to be able to track time, distance, speed and other data. If you use waypoints, you can view ETE, ETA, current time, time passed, and a choose from a very large list of data types.
GEOCACHING - Uhmm... NO. This is not a replacement for your $200 - $500+ handheld GPS device. It makes a great effort, and even has you thinking it's possible from time to time, but the real-world experience just isn't there. It will lead you to caches, and I have found a few. But again, my accuracy shows about 60 feet and I have yet to find one micro/small cache. I haven't tried yet, but I imagine it won't get me any closer to my car in the parking lot than my own guess would serve, and you may look a bit idiotic wandering back and forth between cars staring at your wrist. I'll combine my thoughts on Tracking next...
TRACKING - Perhaps the best feature of the watch. If you turn on the GPS and start tracking, it will track breadcrumbs for you wherever you go. This is great for hiking, which in my opinion, is the main functional use of this watch. If you go for a day hike or you are trekking around the mountains overnight, this tracks every place you went, and you can watch it live on the tiny Map screen. If you break away from the beaten path, or get yourself lost, you can either just retrace your steps back to where you got off track, or you can use the TracBack feature, which doesn't seem much different to me. You can quickly mark and save waypoints along the way, rename them if you like (tedious), and save your track when you're done. There is also the obligatory Man Overboard feature as well in case you get lost and want to get back home ASAP. After you've saved a track you can go back and read all the data associated with your trek such as: time, distance, area, elevation, speed, estimated calories burned, etc.
ALTIMETER/BAROMETER - I'm no expert on use of these, but I can tell you that if you plan to use the barometer to predict the weather out in the wilderness, you better get some education on this. You can't simply assume that a falling/rising barometer means bad/good weather. However, this is also true of all sensor watches.
BATTERY LIFE - I don't have analytical specs. Basically depending on how you use the watch, you can get 16hrs, 50hrs, 2 weeks or 6 weeks of use on a single charge. The bottom line is the more you use the GPS the more quickly the battery drains. These figures are FAR better than practically any GPS device on the market. My Dakota 20 gets about 8hrs from two Duracell AA's with full GPS on, so for a watch this is pretty astounding.
OVERALL - Garmin hopefully continues to invest in this watch with periodic firmware/software updates. v3.10 is current, and I am using the 3.16 BETA version with GPS v2.10. There are a lot of bugs with this device, as there have been historically with Garmin handheld GPS devices (The Dakota 20, for example, didn't reach maturity for 2 years, and gave early adopters like me much grief). Therefore, this watch has a long way to go to be its best. It's FAR better than the typical Casio ABC Pathfinders, etc., but still ends up only being more fun than functional. You can use it for walking and hiking, but I'm not sure I could depend on something like this to save my life, even though it could. It's a powerful device and cool technology, but for much less money you really can get a much more accurate and useful handheld GPS. However, those aren't nearly as cool as having this on your wrist.
My rating of 3/5 is based on what I think this watch is currently, not on what this watch promises or what it has yet to become after future updates.
on November 20, 2012
I've been using my Fenix as a everyday wrist wacht for over 3 weeks now. I work in the Brazilian Agriculture and I'm also a Pilot and a GPS enthusiast, you could say a Garmin enthusiast. My father and I are pilots, we go boating quite often and we use Garmin products in various situations since 1993 (even when we don't need a GPS).
I've always expected the day Garmin would put it all in our wrist, or at least a good part of what Garmin has to offer. I'm in the farm, driving around our crops and wonder what area did we harvested already, my Fenix will tell me, and don't need to get back to HQ to grab my GPS. A doy long boat ride in my friends cabin, leave the tracking on (UltraTrac mode to save you battery) and you will have your way home even after dark (I have evicted getting lost in our lakes at least a dozen times). Before the Fenix I would have to pull my Garmin 76 CSx from my backpack, leave it somewhere safe, where people wouldnt mess with it, and so on. And also to get that fuzz from the jealous guys who doens't know what a GPS can do, besides giving the image of a nerd/geek to girls you've just met!
So, cutting to the chase, you have routing, tracking, waypoints, trip data (avg speed and so on) altimeter, compass (it goes from magnetic compass to GPS heading once you start moving, just great!), termometer, barometer, navigating capabilites, I'm using in our single engine plane as a back up (it gives me vertical speed, headings, bearings, courses, altitutes, ETA, ETE, distance to destination and so on)! It does it all, and it also works as your daily watch, that gives you sunrise, sunset, moorise, moonset, moon phases and your heartrates! After a run, using basecamp, it will give you a graph with you instant speed over you heartrate along your run, you can check how fast your heart accelerates when you go from walking to running, and how fast does it slows down after you star walking again (my "big" GPS doesn't do this).
Garmin made it!... made all this into a nice size wrist watch. It looks cool (sporty) but doesn't get TOO much attention, which is good. Because of it's size, it DOES have it's limitations. The (i) screen is obviously small (it's watch after all), the (ii) processor is a bit slow, just don't rush into pressing buttons and it will never fail or freeze, if it does, just restart it, it happened to me once, enough for me to learn how to properly opearate it, and (iii) it takes a little to understand how the menu works, what's the logic behind it, but after awhile you will master it!
- battery lasts long enough for me! over 14 hours on most intense tracking or too long when the GPS is off.
- the flashlight is pretty strong and it does help you! in the farm, where electricity goes off, my Fenix will light a living room and help you to find your flashlight.
If I lose my Fenix, I will get another one in the same day!
on March 3, 2013
I'm a long time Garmin owner I must have had at least 15 products from them over the years. Most are excellent well designed and engineered and I've kept them until they died of old age. But the fenix - I got this one Feb 18th 2013 and worn it every day for nearly 2 weeks - and everything was great until, I submerged it in a glass of water - 4.5 inches to be precise - for half an hour. The garmin website state waterproof to 50 meters - that's 164 feet.
But after the test dunking, sadly to my horror, there was a mist INSIDE the glass. Oh shute.
Other than that I really liked all the features and it even passes as a daily wear watch.
Either Garmin needs to fix the waterproof to 50 meters (the say WATERPROOF not water resistent) or the next watch is going to be the Suunto Ambit.
Disclaimer - This was was purchased from REI and not Amazon.com
*** UPDATE on 3/6/13 ***
FYI I returned my watch to REI and purchased the Suunto Ambit instead but I don't like it so much... So, I'd like to get a fenix that's the re-worked version, so I called Garmin Tech Support and asked them how to tell the re-worked fenix, and I was informed that anything after serial number 040383 is good.
*** UPDATE on 5/14/13 ***
I returned the Suunto Ambit and got another Garmin Fenix with a serial number 05xxxx and re-did the waterproof test... half an hour in a 5 inch glass of water... This time it passed with no problems and is working well ever since.
So i should up the review to at least four stars as a result.
on July 5, 2014
Like so many things in my life, this watch is perfect for me, but I don't know if I could recommend it for anyone else.
I was looking for a watch that could do a few things. Primarily I was interested in a training watch that synced up with a heart rate sensor, but also I was interested in something that could act as an aid while I'm hiking and Geocaching, and possibly could also be used as a day to day watch. I've always really liked Garmin products, so initially I got a Forerunner 220. While that watch was great as a fitness watch, it wasn't very useful for anything else. I ended up getting the Fenix over the Fenix 2 because there was a pretty sizable price gap on Amazon, and the extra features of the Fenix 2 didn't interest me.
As a fitness watch, this is a very useful tool. Garmin Connect works very well, and the ability to post my runs to Facebook gives me that extra motivation of knowing that my friends are keeping me honest. I love being able to set up intervals, and have the watch vibrate when it's time to switch up. This is significantly bigger and heavier than the Forerunner, and it is very easy to accidentally hit the wrong button and mess up the tracking. I've done this more than once, and it's really thrown me off while on good runs.
As a hiking watch, it performs well. Really, if you look at the feature set of a Fenix and an eTrex, there's very little difference. Tracback, custom waypoints, MOB, geocaching...it's all here. The watch is even capable of some very basic maps. Nothing too detailed (and no road navigation that I can find), but enough to get some decent landmarks and reference points.
As a day to day watch, it works well. The big face is easy to read, and can be customized in a number of different ways. The alarm clock is able to vibrate instead of chime so you don't disturb others. It sounds like a dumb feature, but it might actually be my favorite part of the Fenix.
Where it starts to falter is in accuracy and ease of use. While this watch can be customized in a million different ways, dialing down in the menus to do this gets tedious very quickly. Another issue is the accuracy of the GPSr. My eTrex 20 generally registers an accuracy of 10-20 feet. I've never gotten better than 30 feet with the Fenix, and usually it's in the 40-60 foot range. This shouldn't be a problem for most use cases, but it can be a problem for Geocaching.
The Fenix is completely capable of paperless caching, and I've gone out and found caches using nothing but the watch. However, I doubt that I'd be able to find a micro in the woods with just the Fenix. Also, while the map is a neat feature, navigating around on it is a nightmare. I suppose these issues should be expected, seeing how this is a fully featured GPSr shrunk down to the size of a chunky diving watch.
The Fenix is a big, clunky watch that's hard to navigate through. All the fitness features are done better on other watches. All the GPS features are done better on dedicated GPSrs. If you just want a day to day watch, any cheapo will likely be more comfortable.
All that being said, I love this watch. There are very few watches out there that do everything the Fenix does, and if you can look past the warts, I suspect that you'll love it too.
on May 16, 2013
[Update](See original review below): After a month I'm still super happy with this watch! Garmin has released more updates and the GPS fix is even quicker. Ans they've added 'ski mode'. (just in time for summer ;-) The watch has held up well to my less than careful handling and even after several good hits, the crystal is unscratched. It's been wet quite a bit and handled it well with no leakage or fogging. Battery life is acceptable with it running pretty much all day with GPS on, no worries. After a month of constant usage I have only ONE complaint/suggestion-
Garmin - PLEASE add an Android version of Basemap to the Google play store. Or perhaps release an API so we (your users) can just build one?
Why do iPhone users get all the love?
Pros: nice looking! Sensors include GPS/Barometer/Compass/ANT+, Watch is large(of course) but proportional, replaceable band(26MM), intuitive UI, easy to update frimware/maps, charges quickly, customizable data screens
Cons: at $400 it's one of the more expensive entries, rubber band is well rubber,
Bottom line: I had a hard time selecting between this watch and the Suunto Ambit. In the end, Suunto made the choice for me. Though i think the Ambit is a sharper looking watch, Suunto's schizophrenic support of the watch (they announced that they were going to stop supporting and updating it after lackluster sales, then later backed off the announcement after numerous user complaints.) I figured if they weren't excited about their product, why should I be? Garmin on the other hand, has always aggressively released updates for their products. Since the feature set was equal, I opted for this watch and I'm happy I did.
It's about what I expected in terms of size. i.e. it's larger than a non-GPS watch. The first time I put it on I felt like a kid wearing his dad's watch. But it's not heavy or clumsy in any way. Plus with the replaceable band it LOOKS like a watch. (Most of the GPS watches I've seen are clunky one piece units.) It's certainly no larger than an Invicta diving watch and has a similar 'military' feel. If I have any complaint about the watch at all it's the band. But I'm prejudiced. I've never liked rubber watch bands and I never will. It's getting replaced with a NATO band which I expect will look very nice...
The user interface is extremely easy. Pressing the arrows scrolls between time, compass, altimeter, barometer and temperature. GPS turn on is 2 clicks of the orange button. First fix was 10 seconds! It can get the time automatically which is nice. Displays are highly configurable from the settings, as are units of measure. Navigation, caching, trackback are all fairly intuitive as well, though a bit of practice makes anything easier.
I did just get the watch. So I'll update this review later with battery life info and other findings. But so far I have to say, I'm impressed! This thing is going to be a fixture on my arm for any outdoor trek.
Update: I've replaced the rubber OEM band with a NATO Zulu style strap. It looks very nice. AFA the watch itself, I remain impressed. The Fenix is compatible with the maps Garmin sells as well as all the free Garmin maps online and they load on via Basecamp. The only issue I've had is that in order a map to be visible, I needed to rename it to 'gmapsupp.img' and there's only 22MB space available on-device. But the ability to load Topo, trail and hunting maps for the area I'll be in onto the Fenix is more than I'd hoped for in a GPS watch.
Garmin - If you are listening I DO have one feature request. PLEASE add a 'weather alert' option for barometric pressure drop. (There's already one for altitude change, but an alarm that sounded if the barometric pressure drops by 60MM Hg or more in a short span would be a GREAT weather warning when in the wild... I've set the altitude alarm to alert in similar fashion so that if the 'altitude' rises by 500 ft, it will alert. But I don't know if the GPS will override the barometer for this alert. So it's untested. A specific weather alert function would be nice.)
One more parting thought re. Alerts - This thing has 'vibrate'! Tested it with the alarm and it woke me quietly without disturbing anyone else in the house... Yet another handy feature! I really like this watch.
on February 17, 2013
The watch itself is good quality and the various features are fairly straightforward. The available documentation is a bit lacking as far as setting up the screens and what each of the customization items specifically refers to. The available documenation at the Garmin site needs to be improved.
The biggest problem with the watch is condensation. Clearly when the watch was manufactured it was put together in an relatively humid environment rather than a nitrogen sealed environment. I'm on my 2nd watch because of this problem. What is happening is that because this was manufactured in a high humidity environment the relative humidity inside the watch is very high. If the watch is brought into a cool environment, condensation develops inside the watch on the glass making the watch very difficult or impossible to read. There are only two fixes for this. The first is to return the watch and get another.
If you are more adept at fixing things, you can do what I did with my current watch. There are four torx screws on the back of the case, you can remove these and gently separate the back of the case from the watch. The wiring to the battery which is mounted to the case back will still be intact so don't try to remove the back by pulling on the wires. Once you have broken the seal, and there is a good gap airgap, place the watch in a large zip lock bag along with several silicon dehumidifying packets (you can purchase these or if your like me, just look in a few vitamin bottles). Make sure that the o-ring that seals the watch is intact and absolutely no debris gets in. Let the watch sit in the sealed bag for 24-48 hours to let the dehumidifying beads remove the excess humidity. The tricky part - you'll need to place the watch back in place while it is still in the bag and hold the back of the watch in place. You can then open the zip lock bag and carefully remove the watch while making sure the back stays in place. You don't want to break the seal or the moist air from the room will get inside the watch and you'll be right back where you started (unless the dew point where you are doing this is less that about 0 degrees F). Put the torx screws back in and tighten ensuring that the tightness is about the same as when you removed.
Anyway, your best bet is to send the watch back if it gets condensation in the cold. Garmin has probably fixed this, so hopefully you won't have this issue, but I'm guessing there is still a lot of inventory out there that has this problem.
on September 5, 2015
I've been using this watch for several years now and I still love it. I've hiked with it a few times and like the waypoints, but I mostly use it for running. GPS locks in quickly, usually less than a minute. And, for runs that start from the same location on different days, the GPS seems to "remember" the location as many times it will connect in less than 10 seconds. The battery life is excellent - I can run with it in GPS "on" mode, and the battery is drained just over 10% after an hour. As a daily watch, I think it looks sharp. I've received several compliments on it. It is nice that I now only have to bring/wear one watch when I travel and want to go for a run or do a race. I did have issues with the HR chest strap that came with it, as I could never get it to connect. When I did try to synch it, the HR function of the watch would error and I would have to reset the watch. I switched back to an older HR chest strap that I had from my old 305, and it works fine. One improvement that I would like to see with future versions would be to add the optical HR monitor like Garmin is doing with some of their newer running watches. This would eliminate the need for the chest strap. Also, the glass of the watch face has held up well; after several years, I have no scratches on the glass. Along with that, the wrist strap and the housing have also held up well, showing little to no wear and tear.
on March 21, 2015
Like others, mine was DOA. It would only work while on the charger. I think these have been sitting on the shelf long enough (they were discontinued a while back) the batteries have failed. Li-Ion batteries don't like to be deep discharged and left that way--something Garmin engineers should well know. Fortunately Amazon made returning it painless.
This is arguably a design flaw of this watch as the same thing could happen if you say only use it in the summer while hiking and leave it in a drawer all winter. Garmin should have designed it in a way the battery is internally disconnected from powering the watch when it's drained to a certain level. This would protect the battery but probably would have added fifty cents to the manufacturing cost. Shame on Garmin.
This is hardly Garmin's first rechargeable watch. You would think they would have learned this lesson a while ago when getting a bunch of brand new unusable watches returned. Garmin seems to be really hit or miss with their products. Stay away from the Fenix unless you plan to charge it regularly and hope you get one where the internal battery isn't already ruined from just waiting to be sold.
on July 13, 2013
This is a super technical watch, and for someone like me who isn't all that technical, it's a bit much. However, I've been able to "fake it"; and set the watch to work how I want it. It's a big watch, and kinda heavy, but, it's not bothersome. It would make a great everyday watch. My cons for this watch are that you have to recharge it, which really makes it impractical for anything over a day hike. The other thing is, you don't really get an owner's manual per se, you get a quick start guide, for something more detailed, you have to go to Garmin's website to view the actual manual.
Update- I forgot to mention the positives of this watch. After "playing" with it for a while, I found that it has some really neat features, such as it will tell you the "best" time of day for fishing (as well as a "good" time. As a person who loves to fish, this was a neat find) It also gives you sunrise and sunset data. The other nice feature to me was the straps. These are not pre-molded to the watch like they are on my beloved G-Shock Riseman. The straps on the Fenix hinge on the pins for a more comfortable fit. I haven't had any problems with the water resistance, it's done fine for me so far. The alarm feature also is nice. It is a persistant alarm, unlike my Casio which stops after 20 seconds. The Fenix also has a vibrate alarm, and a snooze feature. I kinda wished it had an hourly chime. Overall, It's still a really good watch. I'd reccomend it.