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Epix (2nd Gen) review: Garmin's best modern GPS sports watch
People with smartwatches enjoy brilliant modern AMOLED displays, but with the Garmin Epix athletes no longer have to compromise on the display experience. There is still more from Garmin that can be added in a future Epix, but this one is our favorite sports watch for the past few years.
While I've used Apple and Samsung smartwatches from time to time, I can't accept the fact that I have to charge my watch daily. Thus, for the past six to eight months I have been bouncing between the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE, COROS Vertix 2, and Polar Grit X Pro Titan that all let me exercise, sleep, work, and play for at least a week between charging.
These full-featured GPS sports watches excel at sports tracking, training programs, customized workout displays, and advanced sports metrics. However, my aging eyes find their lower resolution displays a bit tough to see in lower light situations. Thus, when I saw the Garmin Epix announcement with a high-resolution AMOLED display like the Venu 2 Plus I placed my order and had one in hand within three days. I've now been living with the Garmin Epix for a couple of weeks and couldn't be happier.
Gorgeous, brilliant AMOLED display -High quality sapphire and titanium materials
Touchscreen and five-button navigation interface
Powerful Garmin ecosystem and capability
Solid battery life
Support for a vast number of sports and activities
No phone call or voice assistant support
The Garmin Epix is everything I wanted in a GPS sports watch with a vibrant AMOLED display that rivals the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch models. It offers nearly all that the high-end Fenix has, but it's the display that sets it apart. The model I purchased, Sapphire Black Titanium, must be popular as it shows a five to eight-week shipping estimate if you purchase it now.
Six years ago I moved from my traditional Garmin Forerunner model to a Garmin Fenix 3 HR and thoroughly enjoyed the experience even though the watch provided more than I needed. The Fenix line is comparable to the Forerunner line in many respects, but it is constructed of high-end glass and metal materials with just about every sport and activity Garmin supports in one watch. The Epix is essentially a Garmin Fenix with a brilliant AMOLED display.
The AMOLED display has a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels with a 1.3-inch diameter. It has vibrant colors and stark blacks so fonts, graphics, and animations pop on the screen. There are three levels of brightness (I keep mine at level 2) with the option to have an always-on display too. This is clearly the most obvious differentiator between the Epix and the new Fenix 7 series.
In addition to the responsive AMOLED touch display, the traditional Garmin five-button navigation system is present on the Epix. You can actually have the touchscreen turned off during activities or use a quick control to toggle it off if you are fine with the five-button navigation.
The top left button turns the display on and off, the center left button moves up the display, and the bottom left button moves down. Press and hold the center left button to access the vast menu of settings and options on the watch.
The top right button, start, opens up your favorite activity list and then is used as a selection button. The bottom right is the lap/back button so you can go back one screen in your navigation.
One thing to note about the top right button is that Garmin has short walls up on each side of the button to prevent accidentally pressing it while participating in your activity. The button on my black Epix also has a red metallic ring around it to clearly identify the start/stop function.
Titanium material is found around the front and the back panel while reinforced fiber material is around the edges of the watch. The Garmin Elevate V4 heart rate sensor is centered on the back of the Epix.
Garmin Epix (Gen 2) review: in pictures
A comfortable silicone quick-release 22mm watch band is included in the package. The last time I bought an expensive Fenix Garmin included silicone and leather bands so I was disappointed that a $1,000 purchase did not include leather bands for work and out on the town. It is easy enough to swap out bands with the quick-release mechanism, but for the price, I expected a bit more in the box.
As we saw first with the Coros Vertix 2, the Garmin Epix supports multi-band frequency (titanium sapphire model only) and multi-GNSS settings so you can have multiple positioning systems enabled for improved location tracking in certain conditions as you workout around the world. TopoActive maps are preloaded on the Epix with the ability to download other maps from around the world too. Snow skiing maps, golf courses, and more are supported on the Epix.
Battery: Up to 16 days in smartwatch mode, up to 42 hours with GPS, up to 32 hours with all satellite systems, and up to 10 hours in GPS mode with music playing
Dimensions: 47 x 47 x 14.5mm and 70 grams (with silicone band)
The software on the watch is the same we have seen on recent Garmin watches with the watch face showing up when the watch is lifted up to view. You can press, or scroll with your finger, to move up and down through the glances that you select for your watch. Pressing the start button, or tapping on the glance, will open up more details of that particular widget and then you can scroll through even more information. You can press the back, lower right button, or even swipe from left to right across the display to go back. Glances are very handy and useful for viewing and accessing the information that is most important to you.
Pressing the start button, upper right, takes you to your favorite workouts/activities and then you can press it again to start the activity. You can customize specific workout settings, including data pages and many more functions, after you select that activity and then press the up button.
The Garmin watch software supports up to seven hot keys, consisting of press and hold or pressing of two buttons together, so you can quickly carry out functions such as screenshot, music controls, Garmin Pay, and more.
Press and hold on the center left button to jump into all of the watch settings that include watch face selection and customization, clocks, history, notifications and alerts, appearance, sensors, map, music, connectivity, health & wellness, system, and much more. There is an exhaustive amount of customization available on the Garmin Epix once you jump into these settings.
Something else that is new, but fairly simple at this time, is that Garmin Connect IQ can be added as a "sport" for installing and uninstalling apps directly from the watch. Music apps that I have installed can be uninstalled and I can select from a couple other recommended ones to install.
There are a huge number of sports and activities that can be installed and used on the Epix. We play pickleball with my family so I was excited to see that sport added to the extensive list of options. There are several winter sports, including ski, snowboard, backcountry ski, cross country classic ski, cross country skate ski, and snowshoe. Water sports include stand-up paddleboard, surf, kiteboard, windsurf, kayak, row, boat, and more.
One new page I found on the Epix is called Stamina and this can be a data page in your workout. The top wide stamina percentage and status bar shows your current stamina as you train in the activity. The lower left stamina is your potential and this figure will decrease over the time of your workout. It's an interesting metric to gauge how hard you are pushing things and I need to spend more time testing it out for determining accuracy.
Something new for Garmin is the nearly complete interface synchronization of the watch settings in the Garmin Connect app and the real-time syncing function that takes place when you change a setting on your phone to have it synced to the watch. In the past you would make a few settings changes in the Garmin Connect smartwatch app and then initiate a syncing session to have them synced over. Now when you make a change it is synced over automatically.
There are also many more watch settings mirrored in the Garmin Connect smartphone app as Garmin works to streamline the Garmin software experience and create a richer experience for people. I find it easier to setup specific exercise details on my phone's large display rather than the watch so I really appreciate this functionality and wonder if companies like Coros have been helping motivate Garmin to take steps like this. Sensors and accessories remain a watch-only function, but that makes sense since it requires a direct Bluetooth or ANT+ connection from the watch to the accessory.
Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. Garmin offers the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android and it is a powerful and capable application that closely matches the Connect website experience.
When you first launch the smartphone app you will see a screen called My Day. This is a dashboard and completely customizable to your preferences. Simply scroll to the bottom and choose to Edit My Day. Here you can choose from the following cards: heart rate, steps, Body Battery, intensity minutes, floors, sleep, stress score, weight, calories, Pulse OX, and several more. There are also toggles to see yesterday's stats and the last 7 days of stats. In addition, when you record an activity (run, bike ride, etc.) on that day a box appears up top with that card. Tapping any card takes you into much more fine detail for that measurement.
Other tabs in the smartphone software include challenges, calendar, news feed, and notifications. Tap on the tab icon to see more details for each of these. In challenges you can earn badges for various challenges, setup a challenge with your connection, and more. It's a great way to get motivated to get out and exercise. The calendar views shows you bars for your various status levels and is interesting to view over a long period of time. The news feed presents summary information from your connections while the notifications page shows notifications, such as likes, from your Garmin connections.
Tapping the upper left three bar icon (Android) or lower more option (iPhone) presents a list of other areas to visit in the app, including insights, activity stats, performance stats, health stats, training, gear, connections, groups, safety & tracking, Connect IQ store, Garmin devices, settings, and help. This menu and user interface matches what you see on the website as well. You can view data over different time frames, see your records, view the badges you earned, see totals and averages, and much more.
The Garmin Epix also supports Garmin Coach and to see how this functions I setup a 10K training plan. When you setup a training plan, Garmin Coach appears as one of the main tabs in the Garmin Connect smartphone app. So far it has been awesome to have the coach prompt me through the various running and training modes as I workout and I can't believe it took me this long to give it a try. I guess the lovely display encouraged me to figure out other ways I can view the screen while working out.
There are options to control phone notifications during your activity and at all other times when you are not recording data as part of activity. If you are connected to an Android smartphone, you can go to Settings>Notifications in the Garmin phone app to customize exactly which apps provide notifications to the watch. You do not have this per app control when connected to an iPhone.
With a paired Android phone, you can also select to reply to messages with text you have already setup in advance on your phone. This includes customized text responses.
While there are a plethora of workout options on the watch you can also download preset workouts from Garmin Connect. Even better, you can create your own customizable workouts with over 1,400 exercises to choose from. 75 preset animated workouts are provided for cardio, yoga, strength, HIIT, and pilates so you really have no excuse not to be able to develop workouts that appeal to you and meet your health and wellness needs.
The Garmin Connect website experience is very similar to what you see in the smartphone application, with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, setup connections to other applications (such as Strava, RunKeeper, and MyFitnessPal), and more. Similar to the snapshots interface on the phone, you have a dashboard on Garmin Connect that you can customize.
Garmin Epix or Fenix 7?
The first question that potential customers will ask, and one that I explored since I also have a Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar under review, is "Should I buy a Garmin Epix or a Fenix 7 model?"
As I've stated a few times, the key differentiator is the display. If the display on your existing Garmin Fenix or Forerunner has been just fine for you and you don't look at your friends with an Apple Watch in envy then you should consider the Fenix 7. The same size, 47mm, Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar watch is $100 less than the Black Titanium Garmin Epix so you can save a bit of money too.
Battery life on the Garmin Epix is very good, however the comparable Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar will get you a couple of more days in smartwatch mode. The solar charging may extend that further in the right lighting conditions. Solar would have little impact to improving the battery life of the Epix with the power-hungry AMOLED display and incorporating that technology would simply increase the price with little benefit. If you bounch up the larger Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, with the same price as the Titanium Epix, you get much longer battery life. Thus, if you are an ultrarunner who needs a Garmin watch with the longest battery life then you should look at the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar model instead of the Epix.
I prefer big watches and find the Garmin Epix just right at the 47mm diameter with 22mm bands while the Fenix 7X at 51mm with 26mm bands is a bit big for sleeping with every night.
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
The Garmin 945 LTE brings useful connected safety and live tracking features while the Venu 2 Plus brings phone call and voice assistant support to Garmin watches. I was hoping that the Garmin Epix would also include these new modern Garmin features, but it seems I was asking too much in 2022. Maybe we'll see these features in the next Epix, but I am still extremely satisfied with my purchase and cannot wait to spend the next few months exploring the world around me.
This review covers my limited experiences using the Garmin Epix as my daily driver and it will take me months to explore the vast number of supported sports and activities of the watch. If you want to read the most in-depth review of the Epix, and also view comparison articles of it and the Fenix, then I highly recommend you check out Ray Maker's exhaustive review and videos.
I appreciate all that Garmin offers in its GPS sports watch lineup and understand that a vast majority of its athletes want a display that is very visible outdoors with the watch providing long battery life. The influence of modern smartwatches with brilliant displays had us looking for these displays on the best GPS sports watches and now with the Epix Garmin has answered the call. I am testing the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar and love it for the big size, long battery life, and cool integrated flashlight, but I keep taking it off to wear the Epix for the display.
I've been running, walking, and biking with a Coros Vertix 2 to compare with and find the Epix does a great job with GPS accuracy, heart rate monitoring, and daily heart rate measurements. I also wear an Oura Ring 3 and find the Garmin Epix does a decent job with sleep tracking and its sleep score. Since I am trying to use a device for an overall assessment, including recovery, the Epix does fine as a sleep tracker and 24/7 lifestyle monitor.
The Garmin Epix is a very expensive watch and if you are an athlete that participates in a few core sports like running and biking then something like the Venu 2 Plus likely makes more sense. The Garmin Epix is built for Fenix fans who want a modern display or those like me who don't mind paying a high price for the best watch available from Garmin.