Garmin fenix 5 | Sneak Preview

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The Garmin fenix line has its share of fans here at the ‘House, so we are pretty pumped about Garmin’s latest update, the fenix 5. The current model, the fenix 3 and fenix 3 HR have been out for a year and two years, respectively, so this update follows the expected cadence. Now, you may be wondering, what happened to the fenix 4? Well, word on the street is that it roughly translated to “fast rise to quick death” when spoken in some Asian languages. Fast rise would have been fine, quick death, not so much. Thus, a PR issue was avoided, the fenix 4 was skipped, and so here we are.

So what’s new with the fenix 5? As is the case with a couple of Garmin’s most recent updates, it’s a little tricky, so let’s dive in.

Three models

First off, note that there are now three different versions of the fenix: the fenix 5S, fenix 5, and fenix 5X. Each of these differ a bit in features offered, as well as in price. Here’s a short list of the many small updates that were applied to all the watches (if you want to read the full low-down, we’re gonna send you to our hero when it comes to minute details: DC Rainmaker).

All three watches have the following updates/features:

  • More colors on the display (64 colors instead of the 16 on the fenix 3)
  • Slight tweaks to the menu and controls for easier interface
  • Compatibility with a bunch of bike sensors
  • Upgraded HR sensor (it’s also more flush with the back of the watch)
  • A few new sport modes added (mountain biking, treadmill, and indoor track modes are separated, ski and snowboard modes are separated, to name most)
  • Wi-fi is now only available in the Sapphire versions (fenix 5X is only offered in Sapphire, other watches have a Sapphire option)

Bluetooth Smart compatibility

I know I didn’t mention this in the list above, but only because it’s major enough to warrant its own paragraph. All three fenix 5 watches are now Bluetooth Smart compatible. That means the watches will be compatible with other Bluetooth Smart technology, even if it isn’t Garmin (which it pretty much won’t be, as Garmin has staunchly remained only Ant+ compatible, meaning it has never played well with other brands). Now you will be able to pair your Bluetooth HR monitor, or other sensor, with your Garmin watch – which is a big deal.

Major differences between the three models

Fenix 5S | from $600

The 5S aims to appeal to a wider audience by being the smallest fenix ever offered. In fact, for those of you familiar with Garmin’s current GPS watches, the fenix 5S is essentially the same size as the 735 XT. It’s sleek and compact, weighs less, but it does sacrifice a bit of the battery life of its bulkier predecessor (14hours in GPS/HR mode compared to 20).

Fenix 5 | from $600

Sitting in between the 5S and 5X in terms of size, the fenix 5 is slightly smaller than the current fenix 3HR. This model also offers a higher pixel count (240×240 compared to 218×218) and offers 64 colors instead of 16. The battery life on this model increased a bit, from 20 hours in GPS/HR mode to 24 hours. UltraTrac mode also increased to 75 hours.

Fenix 5X | $700

Here’s where we see the ‘fully-loaded’ version, and the most notable upgrade of the group. The fenix 5X adds mapping – as in, actual maps, like your car GPS. Given that the footprint of this watch is essentially the same as the fenix 3 HR, this mapping capability is a definite game-changer. The fenix 5X only comes in the Sapphire version, which theoretically means a more scratch-resistant glass.

How to choose?

When it comes down to choosing between the models, your main decision will be regarding the size and whether you want the mapping capabilities. Most women and smaller-wristed runners will finally be able to wear the fenix without feeling like they have to carry a weight in their other hand to balance things out, which will probably make the decision easy for those customers. For everyone else – just decide whether or not you want that mapping ability, and go from there.

We can’t wait to get our hands on the watch in April – stay tuned!

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Juli is known around Running Warehouse for her vast knowledge of running product, from shoes to hydration to nutrition to… well just about anything running related. With a background in food science (Read: Bachelor’s degree and an addiction to scholarly journal articles on exercise nutrition), she’s also a trail lover that fiends for long runs in beautiful places.

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