Garmin Fenix 5 series review

In addition to its famous mapping and navigation tools, Garmin is a strong player in the wearables market, contributing heavy-duty smartwatches and activity trackers designed for serious athletes and outdoorsy types. We spent some time with Garmin's new Fenix 5 series at CES 2017, which comprises Fenix 5, Fenix 5S and 5X. Find out what we thought of the Fenix 5 smartwatches and how they compare with Casio's new WSD-F20 in our Fenix 5 hands-on review.

These aren't Garmin's first Fenix watches. In 2015 the company released the Garmin Fenix 3, but it seems to have decided to skip right past Fenix 4 and launch this new Fenix 5 series instead. It comes in three sizes designed for quite different people as we explain in more detail below.

Read next: Garmin Vivoactive HR review

Garmin Fenix 5 review: Price & Availability

Garmin has said that its Fenix 5 series will be available to buy during the first quarter of this year, but there is no solid release date just yet.

The Fenix 5 and smaller 5S are priced at £499.99 ($599.99) while the 5X is £769 ($699.99). You can upgrade the 5 and 5S to add a more durable sapphire screen and WiFi connectivity, but that'll bring the prices up to £589 and £599 respectively.

You can find out more about prices of different models, sizes and straps on Garmin's website here.

Garmin Fenix 5 review: Overview

The three main models in Garmin's new range are the Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 5S and the Garmin Fenix 5X, and both the 5 and 5S can be purchased with a scratch-resistant sapphire screen and WiFi for an additional cost (you'll automatically get those features if you choose the Fenix 5X). There are various colour options to choose from for each model, and each uses Garmin's new QuickFit band design that's really easy to swap out. There are leather, metal and silicone bands to choose from, each sold separately.

Wearing the Garmin Fenix 5 means you'll also be able to track indoor activities including running, swimming, cycling and rowing, and other outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, skiing and golf.

These watches are designed with sports tracking at the forefront, so tracking is detailed and in-depth for each and every sport, with individual tracking parameters for each. It's impressive stuff, and will certainly tick the right boxes for both sports enthusiasts and serious athletes willing to cough up the cash.

All three watches are designed to be worn all day, though, not just while you're exercising or adventuring. Daily steps, calories and distance are tracked, you'll get notifications and alerts from your smartphone right there on your wrist, and the battery life of each is impressive so you shouldn't need to charge it every night. The full-colour display with LED backlighting is designed to be readable in all lighting, too.

They're significantly more expensive than other smartwatches in the market, though, so if sports and GPS aren't at the top of your list you should check out the other smartwatches in our chart.

Each has an optical heart-rate monitor as well as a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, GPS and GLONASS for extra accuracy even if you're in the middle of nowhere. If you opt for the more durable sapphire model of your chosen watch for that extra $100, you'll get WiFi connectivity too, in addition to the built-in Bluetooth.

Rather than a touchscreen for these smartwatches, Garmin has opted for five buttons that allow users to navigate through the features and screens available. The decision not to offer a touchscreen is practical because athletes and adventurers would find the touchscreen difficult to use in wet weather. They're made with stainless steel and are waterproof up to 100 metres.

Unlike the Casio WSD-F20, the Garmin Fenix 5 series doesn't run the new Android Wear 2 software. Instead, Garmin uses its own software built from the ground up. In addition to the new watches, Garmin used CES 2017 to unveil new apps that will soon be released in the company's Connect IQ app store. This includes an Uber ETA app to help you keep track of when to expect your ride to arrive. Sports-related apps include energy apps, heart rate apps and weather updates to help you stay healthy and safe.

Let's take a quick look at the differences between each model. This should help you choose which in the series might be right for you.

Garmin Fenix 5

The Fenix 5 sits in the middle of the range when it comes to size, with a 47mm case. It's more compact and stylish than its predecessor with a variety of colours and straps but manages to maintain its built-in GPS and offers a 24-hour battery even when using that mode. If you're using the Fenix 5 as a smartwatch to take advantage of its tracking and notification features you'll find that it lasts much longer: up to two weeks in fact.

Garmin Fenix 5S

Designed with women in mind but not exclusively so, the Fenix 5S is the smallest of the three watches, with a 42mm case. Garmin expects that this will be one of its best sellers thanks to its sleeker design and price point. That said, it does come with a large battery sacrifice due to the more confined space, meaning you'll only get 14 hours out of it if you're using GPS mode.

Garmin Fenix 5X

The Fenix 5X is Garmin's most advanced offering in the series and the biggest too at 51mm. It's closer to Casio's WSD-F20 both in terms of design and specs. It's the only watch in the series to offer mapping in addition to GPS, but that does come with a higher price tag. Garmin's Fenix watches already have a lot of features to explore, but the 5X has even more so it'll take a bit of time to learn and get used to.

One of the best features that mapping brings to the table is the ability to be able to tell the watch how far you're intending to run or ride and get a number of route suggestions in return, no matter where you are in the world. It can even tell you what you'll be passing so you'll know whether you'll come across points of interest on your journey.

In smartwatch mode, the 5X can manage 12 days on one charge or 20 hours in GPS mode.

OUR VERDICT

Garmin's new smartwatches aren't for everyone. They'll only suit people who're serious about sports tracking or venture outdoors on hikes, ski trips or bike rides on a regular basis. It's not cheap, so we'd recommend looking elsewhere if GPS isn't essential to you. We're impressed with Garmin's new designs, though, and much prefer their look to previous models. We're looking forward to spending more time with the Fenix 5 watches to bring you our final verdict and star rating soon.

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  
Garmin £499.99 (5, 5S), £589 (Sapphire 5), £599 (Sapphire 5S), £769.99 (5X) View

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