Are you tired of sports watches that are only good for running and cycling and look like toys? Then Garmin’s Fenix 5 is worth a closer look. It promises a solid combination of versatile functionality, reliability, and style.
I don’t like the idea of getting a wristwatch just for timekeeping and style, a sports watch or two for exercise, and a smartwatch for keeping track of things. I always thought there had to be a more efficient way. Modern multi-sport watches like the Fenix 5 are the answer to this conundrum. If you’re like me, you’ll be very interested in learning how it delivers.
The Fenix 5 is Garmin’s premium multisport GPS watch, and one of the best sports GPS watches on the market. It’s no mere running or triathlon watch. It can handle almost any sport you can think of. Examples include climbing, snowboarding, golfing, strength training, even skydiving. And it’s water-rated up to 100 meters, so it’s ideal for water sports too.
First of all, it has a rugged design, so you don’t need to worry about breaking it. The bezel, rear case, and buttons are stainless steel. The Sapphire version also has extra durable glass. You use the five buttons for everything, no need to deal with a touchscreen with wet hands or gloves.
It uses a combination of GPS and GLONASS for tracking. There’s also a three-axis compass, a gyroscope, and a barometric altimeter. This tracking system has a breadcrumb function as well, which makes it easy to retrace your steps.
The battery lasts for a long time. In GPS mode, you can expect up to 24 hours. The UltraTrac battery saver mode only updates your location once a minute, and you get up to 60 hours of battery life. In smartwatch mode, it can last up to two weeks.
Its diameter is 1.9 inches, and the watch is 0.6 inches thick. The display itself is 1.2 inches. It’s always on and offers great readability. It has a backlight and a transflective surface so you can read it even in bright sunlight.
Wrist straps are easy to change, and you can choose from a wide variety. So you can have your light, elastic band for the trail, and a proper metal or leather band for the office or nightlife.
The Fenix 5 provides smart notifications and uploads to the Garmin Connect community. You can personalize your interface, customize watch faces, and download apps and widgets.
Training with the Garmin Fenix 5
The tracking system makes the Fenix 5 very accurate when it comes to distance. Its heart rate monitor is also very accurate for a watch, and only a bit slower to respond than a chest strap. All sensors work well in general, except the thermometer, which often shows a warmer temperature than reality.
After your run, you can analyze a lot of useful data, such as a map of your run, an elevation plot, and how much time you were in each heart rate range. You can cycle through a lot of detailed pages of stats. There are ratings for aerobic and anaerobic activity and a VO2 max score. You also get a race predictor that gives you an estimate of how fast you could finish a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon.
The Fenix 5 tells you whether your fitness is improving, declining, or staying steady. And it’ll let you know if you don’t exercise enough or if you’re overtraining. If you want biomechanical running details, you can attach a Running Dynamics Pod to the Fenix 5 and get all the info you could wish for on display.
Running is only one of many activities the Fenix 5 tracks. The Fenix 5 is a true multi-sport GPS watch. You get specific modes for each activity. When swimming, paddling, and rowing, the Fenix 5 will count things like your strokes, pace, and how much distance you get from each stroke. The Ski/Board mode tracks vertical drop, speed, and distance, and it counts your runs automatically and stops tracking in the lift line. If you take your Fenix 5 golfing, it’ll keep track of all data for each course you download from Garmin Connect, provide Green view, and track your performance for each section.
On the home screen, you get a big step counter and sleep tracker up top. Underneath, you find more info on your activities, calories burnt, and a shortcut to MyFitnessPal. Further down, you get the calendar, leaderboard, and settings. Swiping horizontally gives you more detailed information on each stat. You can change their order and disable ones you don’t want. You can also install widgets from the online store, such as weather forecasts and appointment schedulers.
The Garmin Fenix 5 can also notify you of incoming calls and text messages. You can’t respond, so it’s more like a pager. It also doubles as a remote for your smartphone’s music player and Samsung’s smart home hub.
The Coros Pace is a more specialized triathlon watch. But, like the Fenix 5, it has a variety of features beyond its primary purpose. The overall design seems very inspired by the Garmin Forerunner series.
Let’s start with what they have in common. The screen is the same size and resolution. Sensors and trackers are more or less the same too.
The build isn’t as impressive, and it’s only water-rated up to 50 meters, but that’s still decent. Battery life is about the same, up to 25 hours. When it comes to accuracy, it’s comparable to the Fenix 5. It doesn’t look as elegant though, so you probably won’t wear it to the office or a party.
You get a few different modes with different metrics and data pages. The triathlon mode is the main attraction, and it includes transitions. Each profile gives up to five pages of data, which you can customize with the app. You can see your heart rate, VO2 max, cadence, power zones, and more. And it’ll track your workout history and give you speed alerts. You can export this data into FIT files for storage on your phone or computer.
Training with the Coros Pace
The sensor accuracy is impressive for this price range, both GPS and heart rate. It’s not perfect, but it’s comparable to a Fenix 5 in most regards. Heart rate readings in water aren’t that accurate, but this is the case with all optical heart rate watches, including the Garmin. Overall, it does well. And if you want more precise heart readings, you should use a chest strap.
The GPS chip and altimeter provide good information on your speed, how far you’ve gone, and where you’ve been. When cycling, it’s excellent. When running, it’s not perfect if you look closely but good overall. This is due to the arm swinging and bouncing.
You get all the typical information during and after your session. Things such as laps, heart rate zones, and general performance. So it covers everything you’ll need as a triathlete or runner, although it’s not as versatile as the Fenix 5.
Polar sports watches are some of the best multisport watches you can get. The build quality and features are hard to beat. The key difference from the Fenix 5 is that it’s more specialized for triathlons and similar activities, and less smartwatch-esque. This is their range-topping GPS watch.
Sleek is the best word to describe it. Being a flat square with buttons on the sides, it’s ideal for wetsuit users. It doesn’t try to be a stylish watch, only a great sports aid.
The screen is super-readable. Its sensors are all high quality, and its accuracy in water is hard to beat. It has full support for additional Bluetooth sensors, including third-party options.
Where it really shines is in the metrics and planning department. You can set your daily activity goal, and the V800 suggests how to get there by walking or jogging. You can check your training load and recovery status with Polar Flow. An orthostatic test and R-R interval recording to check for overtraining are available.
The V800 lets you save or download GPX/TXC routes from all over the web so that you can find new training routes and hikes. It’ll guide you to the starting point with a compass arrow, and it’ll tell you when to turn and whether you run off the track. The Race Pace feature lets you set a specific distance and time to complete it, and the V800 will pace you, so you maintain the right speed.
With all sensors on high settings, the battery lasts up to 13 hours. If you activate the power saving mode, you can get 50 hours. In watch mode, it claims up to 30 days.
Training with the Polar V800
The GPS and heart rate performance are excellent and fast to respond. You can see your heart rate, pace, and distance covered on the display while exercising. You can also customize the display for specific sports or use a preset. And you can get seamless transitions between them, and even record a full multi-sport session to one file.
It also doubles as a bike computer. You attach it to your handlebars with the included mount kit and get relevant metrics where you can see them. Optional sensors let you track cadence and power as well. Unlike most sports watches, it does a good job when swimming too. The heart rate readings are pretty accurate, and the post-exercise data has useful info like speed and stroke rate.
The strongest feature is the Polar Flow service. It gives you a better idea of how hard you’re training and how much you’ve recovered. And it advises how vigorously you should exercise next time.
Sometimes, a smartwatch can be more suitable than a sports watch. If you’re not that serious and you’re unsure about investing in something just for sports, a smartwatch is a good option.
The outside is mostly plastic, with a stainless backside and a ceramic bezel. It can handle some water and roughness. Its display is as big as that of the Fenix 5, but its resolution is higher and adjusts brightness automatically.
The key advantage is 4G connectivity, which allows for text messages and calls on the track as long as you have a nano-SIM card. The version without 4G is a bit cheaper, though. You still get a GPS and heart rate monitor.
Battery life is so-so. It can last up to three days with light use, and much longer if you disable everything but the clock and pedometer.
Training with the Huawei Watch 2
You get the usual metrics, such as heart rate and VO2 max. The built-in fitness app provides training plans, guided workouts, and more. What it lacks, however, is auto-detection of activities. It’s not as geared toward sports in general, and overall performance is a bit lower. But if you only want a solution for proper running or biking sessions, it’s a good choice.
If you’re not happy with the default app, you can choose from many apps and widgets online. And it doesn’t require a smartphone for its full features. If you want to stream music, the watch can do it.
Pros and Cons
After all that information, you may need a recap. Here are the best and worst parts of the Fenix 5.
When it comes to performance, there’s nothing to complain about. Both the hardware and software are excellent.
It can be a big investment for a hobbyist. If the price is important to you, you may prefer the Coros Pace or Huawei W2.
The Fenix 5 combines the best parts of many different sports watches. It’s robust and versatile, and it does more than just sports. It’s a high-end multi-sport GPS watch that you’ll love if you’re serious about exercise.