Garmin fēnix™ Review

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Being fortunate enough to own three Garmin sports devices I was very excited when I first heard of the new Garmin fēnix™ and even more so when Garmin South Africa provided me with a unit for a bit of testing!

In the box you’ll find the usual suspects, which shouldn’t be anything new if you’ve owned any of the Garmin fitness units from the last few years. You have the Quick Start Guide, the USB wall charger (with different prong adapters for different region’s plugs) and the USB charging cable itself. Don’t just chuck the Quick Start Guide though, I actually had to use it for once as the Garmin fēnix™ works slightly differently compared to their fitness units I am used to, though it’s still user friendly once you get used to it.

If you already have a USB wall charger from another Garmin fitness unit you can keep it plugged in and just plug in the USB charging cable specific to the Garmin fēnix™ in order to charge it. Then of course there’s also the option of charging the Garmin fēnix™ via USB on your computer or any other device you have with a USB port. I used a USB hub, Ultrabook as well as a Xbox 360 without any issues. While the wall charger does charge faster, I found it much more convenient just leaving the Garmin fēnix™ to charge when I hooked it up to my pc to download trail running data. I also loved the charging clip on the Garmin fēnix™ USB cable. It’s a really secure mechanism that snaps on with a positive click, ensuring you actually charge the Garmin fēnix™ when you mean to, unlike the spring loaded charging clip found on my Garmin Forerunner 910XT which I have found to be more finicky with how one attaches it when charging. It also negates the wear and tear a mini-USB port and its flap receives from repeatedly plugging in and out of the cable for downloading and charging.

The Garmin fēnix™ is quite a good looking GPS watch and for those with bigger wrists wouldn’t look out of place as a watch for daily usage (albeit with regular charging), but with my smaller wrists I found it slightly too bulky for that purpose. While trail running though the Garmin fēnix™ was more than comfortable enough and did not bother me, but I would suggest ladies try it on first to see how it fits them. The rubber strap felt secure and has plenty of notches for fine tuning fit while also not absorbing sweat and other moisture on the trails. The backlight on the Garmin fēnix™ is plenty bright even at its lower end setting and the contrast thereof can also be adjusted. No more looking down at your watch with your headlamp and temporarily blinding yourself with the light’s reflection off of the screen!

As I always say when reviewing trail running products, you have to ascertain your needs first before buying something, as there is an increasing variety of products on the market for trail runners to choose from and thus having an idea of what the item of gear needs to do for you will increase the likelihood of you getting the gear that’s right for you. With that in mind, one needs to remember that the Garmin fēnix™ was designed primarily as an outdoor adventure/mountaineering watch and thus forms part of their Outdoor collection and not their Fitness collection (as their other running watches like the FR70 or FR610 do). This means that while the Garmin fēnix™ does have running ability in its DNA, it’s not its primary purpose and one needs to understand this when looking at it from a trail runner’s perspective.