Rugged ABC GPS Watch
I'm extremely happy with my Fenix - now that I've spent enough time to figure out how to make it do what I need. This is not a simple unit and it's interface isn't completely intuitive, but stick with it, do the updates, and you'll be rewarded.
With the 2.9 software update many of the comments of previous reviewers have been addressed:
1. Now has and indoor training mode that records heart rate and other ANT+ sensors without a GPS signal.
2. Now is compatible with the foot sensor to get running cadence.
I wanted a single, wrist-mounted unit that would serve as a GPS-based training tool, a tracking & simple navigation GPS for mountaineering & backpacking, and an always accessible means of recording waypoints, temperature, and elevation. The Fenix does all of that well. However, if you're willing to have three different units for those various capabilities Garmin has different products that do each better than the Fenix, but none that do them all as well in as small a package.
Prior to getting the Fenix I hadn't used Garmin Connect for managing fitness data related to training, so I was surprised at how effective a system it is. Speeds, distances, calories burned, heartrate-based efforts, all displayed on maps or satellite images of your training activities serve me well as motivation to get out and run - but then I'm a data geek. Moving all this from the Fenix to Garmin Connect is effortless.
Bascecamp has also come a long way since it's introduction and the Fenix works well there also. It might seem odd to include these two software products with a review of the Fenix hardware. However, I think the strength of the Fenix is as a GPS based data recorder - track logs (with elevation and temperature), waypoints, routes, etc. are what you produce with the Fenix and so the software to utlize and manage those is one of the strengths of Garmin's enterprise. If you aren't looking for the recording functions you might find a small handheld GPS fits your needs for considerably less money and an easier to learn interface.
The screen size is a good compromise - large enough to be visible and the configurable data screens give a lot of latitude in customizing what information you get when. It is slightly recessed from the rim which provides a slight amount of protection, but I would like to see Garmin offer some sort of adhesive screen protectors to prevent scratching the crystal on rocks.
Buttons are well placed, large enough to use with fine gloves and their action becomes intuitive with practice - but it has taken a day or so to become efficient and familiar with the interface.
The body appears to be machined out of a solid chunk of aluminum - definitely a rugged case. Much different from the Forerunner series - but probably heavier as a result.
Battery life is a serious issue with the Fenix on longer trips where you'll want the unit in GPS mode to record tracks, etc. With the GPS turned off (watch mode) the internal Lithium-ion battery can last weeks. However, with the GPS in normal mode battery life can be as little as 16 hours. Forget to turn off the GPS and you'd run the battery out in less than a day. You can't carry extra batteries and change them as you could with a handheld GPS, so if you need to recharge the Fenix you need a USB connectable power source. Apparently there are small, portable systems from companys like Goal Zero that can provide reacharging via USB without being too heavy and I'm looking for one of those now.
Summary - if you need the combined functionality and ruggedness of the Fenix you will probably be pleased with one. Don't buy it the day before a trip where you want to use it immediately. Give yourself a couple of days to upgrade the firmware, learn the interfaces, and become comfortable with it.
I love this thing.
I bought this watch for myself about 5 months ago. I love it. I wear this as a watch every single day. Whenever I go hiking I love to bring it with me and set a waypoint at my car, turn on the GPS and go! It is an excellent tool to have when hiking because if you have other information about your hike (final altitude, distance, etc.) you can see how close you are to finishing and how far you have already come.
I have found that Garmin's specs were just about right for me. Garmin claims that it will last, in GPS mode, for about 16 hours, and I would have to agree with that. They also claim that it will last, with GPS turned off, for about 6 weeks. I would say this was right for me at first, but I would have to say that the battery drains a little faster now, it would probably only last 5 weeks for me now, but really this is not a problem, it charges very quickly so not wearing it for a half-hour every couple of weeks is not a big deal.
This is a GPS, altimeter, and barometer(plus a bunch of other things too: sunrise/set, best fishing times, etc.), in other words it can tell you where you are, your altitude, and the air pressure. Now I have to say this, if your goal is to plug in a set of coordinates and to land within a foot of this point, this is not what you're looking for; you need a $700+ gps specific device. But what this WILL do for you is show you where you are, your altitude, and air pressure to a close enough range that it doesn't really matter. You this will get you within 10-20 feet of your car, easy. If you are coming back down the trail and "Uh-oh! Which one did I take?" happens, you will know where to go. If you are hurt and you need to tell people where you are, this will do those things. Like I said, I love it.
I have had one issue with this watch, where I was zooming out on the map very quickly and I ended up freezing the watch and having to restart it (not a problem- simply hold the backlight button for about 20 seconds) but after restarting I was right back to where I needed to be, still in GPS mode, and still tracking. The only negative effects I had were later when reviewing my hike, I had one spot in the hike that I was non-existent for a brief moment.
If you buy this watch, you have to download Garmin's software "Basecamp" too, you don't HAVE to, I just recommend it becasue it is really cool, it allows you to store your hikes, bike rides, runs, etc., and let's you name them and save them on your computer. You can review the hike, watch it on a map, and look at all sorts of chart data from your trip.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the Garmin Fenix, it is a great thing to have. It is an excellent watch, a great GPS, and a fantastic tool to have with you. It may seem bulky but you get used to it very quickly. Also, I was deciding between this GPS watch and the Suunto Ambit, I ultimately chose the Garmin becasue it was a little cheaper, it seems to fit my wrist a little better, and it can also share waypoints between some other Garmin devices (I also have a Garmin 450T for longer hikes and as a back-up for short ones). I am very, very happy with my purchase.
Great for Outdoors, NOT indoor workouts
I thought I had finally found a watch that could do it all, but like all companies, Garmin wants you to buy multiple products for multiple activities. At such an expensive price, I just can't afford that. I was looking for a watch I could wear all the time and use for my training as well as for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. This watch is great for everything outdoors, except I was extremely disappointed that it wouldn't sync with a Foot Pod. It's not just that I use my Foot Pod to record runs on an indoor track or treadmill, but I have used my Foot Pod to record distance when my GPS couldn't get coverage (ie hiking in really dense forest or in slot canyons). This watch can sync with other ANT+ compatible devices, so I know it is capable of it, Garmin just decided to not allow it. Extremely disappointing. Another downside is that I couldn't use my HR monitor strap to record my workout indoors. The watch recognizes my HR strap and shows me my HR data, but once the watch couldn't locate a satellite signal it automatically kept pausing my workout. I was really hoping to use this for all my training activities. Now I have to say that I love the way this was designed for the outdoors. The ability to sync through Bluetooth with my iPhone and add/edit waypoints, see location on better map is AMAZING. The BaseCamp app to do this is free, but it is apparent that it was hurried and put together. It doesn't allow for actually downloading data to the iPhone. It also doesn't load the map on the iPhone if you are not getting reception. I imagine that improvements will continue to come and I'm hoping that I will eventually be able to download maps on iPhone so I won't have to have reception to see map. Overall, this watch has a lot of great features and with GPS, Bluetooth, and ANT+, the possibilities of what this can do through future software updates is limitless. Garmin, please allow this to work with Foot Pod and use to record workouts indoors.
Must have for outdoor enthusiasts
I bought this watch to serve as a way to track my training for my first marathon. I practice a lot of sports and I always like to know my total vert, total mileage, calories, HR zone, speed, etc. I was looking for watch that had the basic functions for cycling swimming, and running. This watch did all those and so much more. I have been so impressed at the amount of things it can do.
It is a bit complicated to use at first. Like any tool or gadget that has limitless functionality, they come with a learning curve. I have not yet learned everything about this watch, but if you have some patience and play with it, you can customize it so much to your personal preferences. Expect to spend some time learning it before you go off into the woods. don't buy it the night before you go on a trip.
Battery life is great, It would last enough to do an Ironman and a multi-day backpacking trip if you are carefull with the GPS tracking and sharing data.
If you are looking for a watch that will give you all the endurance sports data you need but also has hiking and backpacking capabilities, this is the one for you. One thing I love about this watch is its ability to wirelessly connect to your computer and instantly plot all your data on top of each other so you can see your performance at various points in your outting. Like compare HR with elevation and speed etc. And it plots it all on a map or google earth.
If you only do endurance sports and all you need is pace, HR, speed, elev, calories, dist, etc, then you are probasbly better spending your money on a sports specific watch like the 910, but if you want all of this and much more, get the Fenix. Besides REI gives you 40 bucks back on this watch on your membership return. Be sure to upgrade the firmware to fix some of the issues older models have.
I went from the Garmin 610 to the Fenix, mainly because the Garmin 610 is not as water proof, and I didn't want to worry every time I go to the beach or jump in the shower. I also have the Edge 800 for cycling. I hated it at first, it was very erratic with the data recording, but then (and this happens with just about every Garmin product I've tried) they released an update that made it much smoother. It still does not have the smooth running algorithm that the running watches do and it doesn't work with the foot pod, but it's not a running watch. The battery life is fantastic. I track four to five runs, rides, hikes, with it a week and usually have to charge it only once. The compass is very accurate, the barometer and temperature are only so so. The base map is very simple, but it clearly shows your track, your way points, and location, so it's easy to find your way back to any point on a hike, ride, or otherwise. It also comes preloaded with profiles for just about every activity. If you're serious about your training this might not be the watch for you. If you want a good training GPS watch that you can rely on in the outdoors than I wouldn't hesitate. I haven't tried on any longer pack trips, but it does have adjustable recording which can greatly extend the battery life.
Very good. But not great for running.
I have the Suunto T6 and T6C and Garmin 405 and 405cx and Garmin 610. I don't use the old ones any more; I wear the 610 as a daily watch and I run 40-50 miles a week with it.
I liked the idea of a really awesome all-in-one watch/computer to replace my 610. I hoped it would GPS sync up faster and stay connected more consistently, as I've had intermittent issues with the 610. It does. The fenix syncs up faster and didn't drop in places the 610 does.
I expected it to be completely as awesome as the 610 for running... and better. It isn't. The foot-pod is an either-or thing with the fenix, versus an either/or/and with the 610. The 610 will use the footpod as cadence if it has GPS and switch over if it loses sats. (It never seems to switch back, but that's partly why I wanted the fenix.) If the fenix has the foot pod set to cadence, it does NOT back up the GPS. And if it's set to speed, it doesn't record cadence.
There were other issues that make it a not-great-for-running device. I returned it. As nice as it'd be to have that long battery life for hiking and such (the 610 didn't last through a Half-Dome run last year), it's not awesome enough to keep both.
Still a great device. Just not for running.
Solid ABC Watch
I am a huge outdoor enthusiast meaning I enjoy adventure runs, camping, hiking, water activities, daily work outs, and adventuring. Prior to my Fenix purchase I owned numerous Suunto models (Vector, Core, X10, and Ambit) and maybe you would question why I owned so many... Because I was never satisfied. Closer to home the Ambit Generation 1 was slow to connect to GPS satellites, usually was on track but sometimes the distance was off, the strap was super uncomfortable and I could go on.
Upon arriving to my new duty station in Virginia I was perusing REI and glanced upon the Fenix which at the time was newly released and customer reviews were not published. I had a lengthy conversation with the REI rep regarding the watch which the rep owned one and had great things to say. I decided to purchase the watch.
Numerous differences between the Ambit and Fenix and all in favor of the Garmin. When I have my music blasting in my headphones, the Ambit beeps and the Fenix vibrates. Although I am not impressed with the plastic appearance of the Fenix, it so far has performed through the abuse it has endured. Many profiles offered for the athlete or outdoor adventurer and I would recommend this watch over any Suunto.
Works well, with caveats
I've used this watch to record some bike rides of 3-20 miles, and a few mountain hikes (Rattlesnake, Lake Serene, Elwha River, Hurricane Ridge).
When it works, it works well.
Once you understand the menu setup, it can be setup to work pretty easy.
Map is good enough to understand where you are in relation to where you've been.
Has a bunch of profiles for different kind of activities, and synces to most garmin ANT+ devices
recognized by strava as a device you can directly upload from
fairly good battery life (did 5 miles on hurricane ridge + 8 miles on elwha and had 50% left)
It can be slow to get a signal, sometimes 2-3min (in the mountains).
On my Lake Serene trip, I lost the sat once and the tracks added a couple small loops that we definitely didnt hike.
Not easy to use on your wrist while biking compared to a mounted bike computer; also, harder to manipulate while riding
Compared to other wrist-top computers, this one is pretty easy to use. It has an intuitive menu driven interface that's easy to figure out even without reading the instructions. This thing is large but arguable justified given the amount of features it offers. It takes it a while to acquire satellites when in gps mode if you do not have a clear view of the sky. Before I go for a run, I'll turn it on and set it on the porch while I change into my running gear and it's usually ready to go. It's easy to inadvertently hit the gps button which will drain the battery quickly. It comes with the hardware to charge it at a 110 outlet or usb – super convenient!
It was between this and the Ambit. The difference was $100 and ambit doesn't upload to Strava. Overall it does everything decent. I have other gps's for specific sports. I got this as an all round watch that I would wear casually. I'm 6 ft 200lbs and no one has ever mentioned my watch(so it's not gigantic). It wears well, not much different than a g shock. If you want this watch as an all around I would highly recommend. If you have very specific needs, you should research more.
I also got the tempe. It works very well, the internal temp gauge is always high in the winter with body heat and clothes!