Garmin fēnix™ Review

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Software wise my Windows computer quickly recognised the Garmin fēnix™ and installed the necessary drivers and I was then able to upload to both Garmin connect and Garmin Training Centre as well as later to Strava (for those with a competitive side). However even with setting the device profile to running, the programs don’t pick up the activity type as running but that can be set manually so it’s not an issue. The Garmin fēnix™ can be set to output either or both a .fit and .tcx file when recording activities, so there should not really be any programs that cannot accept the data created by the watch.

Basecamp is another piece of Garmin software aimed at their outdoor market. It enables you to manage routes, waypoints, tracks, and Garmin Adventures with the included basemap. Unfortunately the included basemap is very scarce in detail so I would recommend purchasing the maps for your area to make things easier. This is a huge step up versus the basic course plotting functionality available on Garmin Connect and allows one to really take advantage of the navigational functionality of the Garmin fēnix™. Together with Basecamp, one also gets Garmin Adventures, which is a new piece of Garmin software. This site enables one to take your GPS tracks and merge them with photos, using Basecamp to drive that integration. A nice little trail running digital scrapbook if you will.

Another innovative feature of the Garmin fēnix™ is their companion app called Basecamp. Currently an iOS only app (for iPhone 4s/5 or newer iPads with Bluetooth 4.0) , this app is designed to download tracks from your Garmin fēnix™, via Bluetooth Smart connectivity. You can also view basic information on completed activities from the Garmin fēnix™ with a few charts and graphs included. You can also create waypoints via the app using Google Maps data which are then automatically sent to the Garmin fēnix™ to be used for navigation. It would be nice if one could upload the data directly to Garmin Connect from here (or Strava etc.) and search for courses on Garmin Connect and download them to the Garmin fēnix™ directly. One can also share data between two Garmin fēnix™ units, allowing you to specify routes, tracks, waypoints and geocaches as transferrable activities. Integration between this feature and the Basecamp app would be first class! Maybe in future updates…

Other pieces of functionality include geocaching features with support for the Garmin Chirp sensor, basic bike functionality (speed/average speed in kilometer per hour without power meter support), the best hunting and fishing times according to sun,moon and tidal patterns as well as sunrise/sunset time info so you don’t get caught in the dark.

By now it should be pretty clear that the Garmin fēnix™ is not your run of the mill (if you would excuse the pun) trail running watch. It’s more than just a GPS sports watch and more of an all-round outdoor sports tracking and navigational tool. If you need all the bells and whistles in your GPS watch to use it as a training tool, like setting up a run/walk timer during intervals, you would be better served with other products in the Garmin stable like the Forerunner 910XT. But if your needs fall more to the side of ultra trail running with some navigation thrown in, the Garmin fēnix™ should undoubtedly be your tool of choice.

The standard Garmin fēnix™ retails for an RRP of R 4 699.00 (incl. VAT), while the fēnix™ Performer (with heart rate monitor) retails for an RRP of R 5 199.00 (incl. VAT).

For more info on the Garmin fēnix™ visit the Garmin fēnix™ website.

Also check out this short video about trail running with the Garmin fēnix™.


The Garmin fēnix™ used in this review was provided courtesy of Garmin South Africa.