Garmin Fenix 5, first take: A heavyweight sports watch with a matching price tag

garmin-fenix-5-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    Not yet rated
  • $599.99

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a fitness and outdoor watch that's not for the faint-hearted.

It's packed with features, and can deliver very detailed information for those who like to monitor their activities in minute detail.

One of the problems with sports watches is their size. My little wrists can struggle with them, and I'm not alone. So, Garmin makes the Fenix 5 in three sizes, with diameters of 42mm (the Fenix 5S), 47mm (the Fenix 5), and 51mm (the Fenix 5X). There is an enhanced scratch-resistant Sapphire edition of the Fenix 5S and Fenix 5, while the 5X only comes in the Sapphire version.

The starting price is £499.99 (inc. VAT) for the 5S and 5, rising to £599.99 for the Sapphire version of both. The Fenix 5X is only available in Sapphire, at an eye-watering £769.99. The 5X does come with a range of onboard map data, which is an optional extra for the two smaller versions. Full pricing options are available at Garmin's website.

garmin-fenix-5-wrist.jpg

The basic 47mm-diameter Fenix 5 is a chunky watch weighing 87g. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

My review model was the basic Garmin Fenix 5. Its large, readable, colour watch face is a boon, but it's too big and chunky for my wrist. The 47mm diameter is not the main problem, so much as its weight (87g) and depth (15.5mm). Five buttons also protrude from the edges, making for a device that's easily snagged on clothing.

Still, if you get past the price and the wearability issues, the Fenix 5 is quite simply a stunning piece of equipment that will gather statistics and share them with the Garmin Connect app and website for analysis to the nth degree. The watch has capabilities to track masses of sports, including trail run, track, indoor track, hike, climb, bike, bike indoor, MTB, pool swim, open water, triathlon, ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, stand-up paddleboarding, rowing, indoor rowing, and golf.

Top ZDNET Reviews

Different metrics are recorded for different sports. For example, swimmers can track stroke types, swim efficiency, pool and open-water metrics, heart rate, and more. The watch is rated to 10ATM (100m depth). Golfers can track yardage, shot distance, and strokes used per round, and use a digital scorecard.

For runners, the usual speed and distance data is collected, along with VO2 max and heart rate zones data. With the right accessories the Fenix 5 can also track cadence, running symmetry, stride length, 'bounce' in running motion, and more.

garmin-fenix-5-box.jpg

Prices start at £499.99 for the 42mm 5S and 47mm 5 models, rising to £599.99 for the scratch-resistant Sapphire versions. The top-end 51mm (Sapphire) Fenix 5X costs £769.99. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

After a session is done, the watch will advise on the appropriate recovery period before the next activity. This is something of a weak spot, as the suggested rest periods seem rather long. Perhaps Garmin is wary of any suggestion of encouraging overtraining injuries. Such conservatism may also underlie the initial step counter goal in the activity tracking part of the Fenix 5, which is set at 7,500 paces -- a pretty low goal for someone spending £500 or more on a top-end sports watch. The goal does rise automatically as more activity is tracked, though.

The activity tracker, incidentally, collects the usual metrics -- steps, calories, floors climbed, distance travelled, and sleep monitoring data. It also has a move bar to remind users they've been inactive for too long.

The Fenix 5 will accept GPX or TPX tracks via Garmin's free BaseCamp software, making it possible to download trails information from third-party sites and use these for hiking or other activities. For hiking, the watch will track pace, distance, and time, and it can show a live compass direction and track height gain.

Garmin has added a range of smartwatch features such as notifications, calendar, and even weather information. A selection of watch faces is available, as well as interchangeable straps.

The menu system on the watch is vast and complex. Despite having five buttons (most with long and short press features) it's not always easy to get to the desired destination easily -- or to remember the route to it. This is overcome in part by defining screens of information as widgets, which are readily cycled through. When the time comes to delve into the menu structure again, though, the manual might come in handy.

garmin-fenix-5-charger.jpg

Battery life is quoted at two weeks (smartwatch mode) and 24 hours (GPS mode). The USB charging cable has a proprietary connector at the watch end. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

Garmin says the battery lasts up to two weeks in smartwatch mode and up to 24 hours in GPS mode. I've not had the opportunity to take the Fenix 5 out on a long weekend to test battery life, but my experience so far suggests you'll need to carry the proprietary charger and cable on a long weekend walking holiday, for example.

Garmin's Fenix 5 does more than most of us will ever need when it comes to sports tracking, and adds in the features of a smartwatch and activity tracker for everyday use. It's bulky, with a tricky menu system, and you'll need to keep an eye on the battery level.

But there's no doubting its powers.

PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE

    Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac review: Touch Bar control for virtualised Windows apps, and more

    The latest version of Parallels' Mac-based virtualisation software is now optimised for macOS High Sierra and Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

    Dell Chromebook 13 3380 review: Robust build and good battery life, but beware the weight

    Dell's Chromebook 13 3380 is no lightweight, lacks a fully rotating screen and has a somewhat unforgiving keyboard, but it delivers good battery life and is solidly built.

    Nokia 5 review: A solid mid-range pure-Android contender

    The Nokia 5 is a well-designed mid-range handset with excellent build quality, although several compromises have been made to achieve its attractive price point.

    UAG Metropolis for Apple iPad Pro 10.5: Impact resistance, Pencil holder, Smart Keyboard compatible

    UAG is one of my favorite smartphone case makers, and its new Metropolis case for the iPad Pro 10.5 knocked other contenders from my hands.

    Specifications

    Miscellaneous
    Sensors accelerometer, barometric altimeter, digital compass, gyro sensor
    Color slate gray with black band
    Color Category Black
    Body Material Stainless steel
    Protection 10ATM waterproof
    Battery
    Run Time (Up To) 24 sec
    Rechargeable Battery rechargeable
    Style
    Product type GPS Sport watch
    Header
    Brand Garmin
    Product Line Garmin fenix
    Model 5
    Packaged Quantity 1
    General
    Size 1.2 inch
    Features
    Sensors accelerometer, barometric altimeter, digital compass, gyro sensor
    Dimensions & Weight
    Width 1.9 in
    Depth 15.5 mm
    Height 1.9 in
    Weight 3 oz
    Flash Memory
    Installed Size 64 MB
    Battery Life Details
    Run Time (Up To) 100 sec, 24 sec, 336 sec

    Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Reviews

    Top ZDNET Reviews

    Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

    Where To Buy

    Garmin Fenix 5 (slate gray with black band)

    Part Number: 010-01688-00
    Price
    $599.99

    Newsletters

    You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
    See All
    See All