Garmin Fenix 5 Watch Review: How Good It Is?

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Rugged Design

Befitting a watch designed for the outside, the Garmin fenix 5 includes a rugged exterior that appears like it might take some abuse. Five screws hold a beveled, black bezel set up, while five circular buttons (three on the left, two on the proper) ring the 1.2-inch display. There’s an inner bezel around the screen, along with an outer bezel; together, they measure practically half an inch, though that’s mitigated visually by the look.

Garmin has eschewed touch screens and only a number of buttons on either side of the display. Without as newfangled as touchscreen-only smartphones, I love this the sensibility. Once you have sweaty or gloved hands, It’s a whole lot better to navigate an interface with buttons. Built tough, the fenix 5 can be water-resistant to 100 meters, in comparison to just 40 meters for the TomTom Adventurer.

The fenix 5 will track you in the event that you jump out of an airplane. This is an attribute my mother wouldn’t normally let me test.

I favor the fenix 5’s design compared to that of the $349 TomTom Adventurer, another go-anywhere GPS watch, that includes a square face with a tiny d-pad below it. While there is nothing wrong with the way the TomTom looks, it feels a lttle bit out of place if you are wearing it in a far more formal setting.

The fenix 5 may be the midsize version of the three watches Garmin introduced. Small fenix 5S and the bigger fenix 5X being the other two. As the fenix 5 gets the same size display as the 5X (1.2 inches in diameter), the fenix 5’s case is 1.9 inches in diameter and 0.6 inches thick. The fenix 5X is a tenth of an inch larger and thicker, and in addition half an ounce heavier, at 3.5 ounces.

Small size and weight of the 5 managed to get much more comfortable for me personally to wear both on a day to day basis so when I was running. Typically, I take advantage of the Garmin Forerunner 235 on my runs, but I barely noticed the difference between it and the fenix 5 on my workouts.

The fenix 5 I tested also had an elastomer band, that you can replace with a metal band which makes the watch look more well suited for a night out. You wouldn’t want to go running with the latter, though. The bands could be switched relatively quickly, too.


The fenix 5 comes with an always-on color display (an advantage) with a transflective surface that uses sunlight to help make the screen brighter. I never really had a problem reading the display, even in sunlight. However, if you are indoors, the screen, while still viewable, is a lot dimmer than you will see on most smartwatches. It can have a backlight, though.

The fenix 5’s resolution of 218 x 218 pixels can be lower than that of smartwatches, including the Samsung Gear S3 frontier (360 x 360), so things aren’t practically as crisp, but this is simply not a dealbreaker.

Tracked Activities

It’s tough to find a task the fenix 5 can’t track; furthermore to monitoring running, the watch can record your metrics if you are hiking, climbing, mountain biking, golfing, skiing (downhill and cross-country), snowboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming and rowing. The fenix 5 will track you in the event that you jump out of an airplane. This is an attribute my mother wouldn’t normally let me test.

A breadcrumb feature helps it be simple to stay on course back where you started if you are in unfamiliar territory.

I tested the watch on two of the best outdoor activities: running and skiing.

Running Performance

I used the fenix 5 while I was training for a half marathon, together with through the race itself.

The watch, which uses GPS and also GLONASS, measured the race distance – a 13.1-mile USATF (USA Track and Field)-certified course – as 13.16 miles, which is exceptionally accurate.

The fenix 5 also offers you a VO2 max score (a way of measuring your overall level of fitness), the intensity of your training in the last week and a race predictor, which lists how fast the watch thinks you’ll complete a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon.

For every run that you do, you get yourself a training effect, gives you a score for both aerobic and anaerobic activity. After owning a half marathon, I received a score of 5 (the best you may get) for aerobic and 3.7 for anaerobic activity. The fenix 5 also said I was overreaching, which, in a few respects, you should do in a race.

AN EXERCISE Status screen shows how productive your exercises have already been and gives you an over-all sense if your level of fitness is improving, holding steady or decreasing. After weekly of not running, I received an ominous “detraining” message.

After a run, I possibly could cycle through screens on the watch, which showed me splits, an elevation plot, a map of where I ran, just how much time I spent in each heartrate zone and other details. I was impressed with the wealth of information directly on my wrist.

The fenix 5’s optical heartrate monitor proved accurate, nonetheless it did not react to changes as quickly as a chest strap would. I continued a run wearing both fenix 5 and a Polar H7 chest strap linked to MapMyRun. The Polar strap recorded my average heartrate as 158 beats each and every minute and my max as 175 bpm. In comparison, the fenix 5 said my average HR was 159 bpm and the max was 177. However, Garmin’s watch took some more seconds compared to the Polar strap to record changes in my own heartrate, which is typical for an optical monitor.

Skiing Performance

I also took the fenix 5 for an extended weekend skiing in Banff, Canada, where in fact the watch dutifully tracked my runs around Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Even high up in the Canadian Rockies, the fenix 5 was quick to get a GPS signal, and smart enough to learn when one run ended and another began.

Much like the running, my ski runs were viewable on the watch itself, as were details such as for example elevation loss and gain and the distance, speed and time of individual runs. I possibly could also visit a map view of most my runs come up with.

The thing that didn’t work very well was the fenix 5’s thermometer. Although the watch was strapped externally of my ski jacket, it recorded temperatures much warmer than using the conditions.


It’s been a couple of years since Garmin updated the appearance of its app, and I believe it’s time for a change. The software includes a steeper learning curve than other fitness apps.

The house screen (generally known as the Snapshot screen), that includes a black background, has two large circles toward the very best that show just how many steps you’ve taken and just how much sleep you’ve had. Below that are small blocks for Active Calories, Activities, MyFitnessPal, Intensity Minutes and Floors Climbed.

Swiping left or right teaches you more info on various activities (steps, sleep, running, swimming, etc.). You can customize how a number of these pages show up, together with their order, by pressing an icon in the upper right corner of the screen. All too often, I pressed this icon trying to gain access to settings for the fenix 5.

Along underneath are icons for Snapshot, Leaderboard, Calendar, News Feed and More (where you could change device settings and so on).

Smartwatch-Like Features

As the fenix 5 is not a smartwatch by itself, Garmin’s Connect IQ enables you to swap out watch faces and install widgets that then add functionality to the watch.

You can get a localized weather forecast, a set of calendar appointments, and notifications, such as for example calls and texts. The fenix 5 only enables you to view these, though, not react to them.

However, you can control music playing on your own smartphone. A recently available update to the iphone app also lets you hook up the watch to Samsung’s SmartThings smart home hub, to help you turn your lights on / off, for instance, from the fenix 5.

About the one thing the fenix 5 does not have is onboard storage for music, just like the TomTom Adventurer has. Still, TomTom’s watch lacks the customizable faces, weather tracking and smartphone notifications that the fenix 5 offers.

Battery Life

Among the reasons I favor wearing Garmin’s watches over smartwatches is that I rarely need to worry about recharging. If you are not using GPS or the heartrate monitor, the fenix 5 can last up to fourteen days. That means if you forget to bring the charger on a journey lasting greater than a day, you will not have a useless hunk of metal on your own wrist. If you work with GPS, the battery is rated to last up to a day, which is a lot more than twice what the TomTom Adventurer (11 hours) offers. In the event that you start UltraTrac mode (where in fact the watch pings the satellite only one time every minute, instead of every second), the fenix 5 should last for 60 hours.

WHEN I went for a 2-hour, 13.1-mile run using GPS and the heartrate monitor, the battery decreased by 9 percent. WHEN I left GPS on for 2 hours while tracking my ski runs, the battery again dropped by 9 percent. I could ski first chair to last chair without worrying if the fenix 5 would go out of juice.

I also like this Garmin has continued to shrink how big is its charging cables. Instead of by using a bulky wireless charger like so many smartwatches do, the fenix 5 has a tiny USB cable that snaps right into a port on the trunk of the watch.

Fenix 5 versions

The $599 fenix 5S may be the smallest and lightest of the three Garmin watches, at 1.7 inches in diameter and 2.4 ounces in weight. In addition, it includes a smaller, 1.1-inch display with an answer of 218 x 218 pixels and the shortest battery life, at up to nine days in smartwatch mode or more to 14 hours in GPS mode.

Of the three watches, the fenix 5, which also starts at $599, gets the longest battery life: up to fourteen days in smartwatch mode (based on settings) or more to a day in GPS mode. Just like the 5X, the fenix 5 includes a 1.2-inch display with an answer of 240 x 240 pixels.

The fenix 5X, which starts at $699, has 12GB of storage (the other two watches have only 64MB each), which is basically used for preloaded topographic and cycling maps, and a lot more than 40,000 golf courses. The battery can last you up to 12 days in smartwatch mode (based on settings) or more to 20 hours in GPS mode.

The sapphire edition of every watch – which includes a more scratch-resistant sapphire face and a metal band – escalates the price considerably. For example, the sapphire fenix 5S and 5 cost $849 each.

Bottom Line

The Garmin fenix 5 isn’t an inexpensive GPS watch, but also for outdoor adventurers who need or want to fully capture everything they do, this $599 device could possibly be worth the investment. It offers detailed stats on a variety of activities, comes with an accurate heartrate monitor, doesn’t weigh your wrist down an excessive amount of and lasts quite a long time on a charge.

If your activities are more confined to running or biking, the significantly less expensive TomTom Spark Cardio 3 or Garmin Forerunner 235 will be better suited to your preferences. However, in the event that you spend every weekend in the woods, on a mountain or in the ocean, the fenix 5 could possibly be just what you will need.

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