Garmin fēnix 6 vs. fēnix 5: What's the difference and which should you buy?

Garmin Fenix 6
Garmin Fenix 6 (Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin fēnix 6

Garmin Fenix6

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If you want to take your tracking up a notch, you'll love the Garmin fēnix 6. It's relatively similar to its predecessor with some notable improvements. You'll now have a Pulse Ox sensor for monitoring blood oxygen saturation, battery saving modes, and the new PacePro feature that helps you keep your pacing strategy right on track.

Garmin fēnix 6

A worthy upgrade

Onboard GPS
Two-week battery life & battery saving modes
10 ATM water resistance
New PacePro feature, Pulse Ox sensor
Garmin Pay
None we could find

Garmin fēnix 5

Garmin Fenix 5 Render

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If you're not concerned about having the latest and greatest wearable, you might be content with the Garmin fēnix 5. It has the essentials, like onboard GPS, heart-rate monitoring, in-depth activity tracking, and multiple sport modes. It doesn't, however, have dedicated battery saving modes, Garmin Pay, or a Pulse Ox sensor.

Garmin fēnix 5

Beloved classic

Onboard GPS
2-week battery life
10 ATM water resistance
In-depth activity tracking
Multiple sport modes
Lacks Pulse Ox sensor
No battery saving modes
More expensive

Garmin fēnix 6 vs. 5 Making comparisons

Garmin is known for its high-quality fitness watches, which include the Garmin fēnix 6 and 5. No matter what type of wearable you're seeking, you'll be able to find a model that has the features and functionality that you desire. The fēnix model lineup is a perfect example of this as there are multiple options to choose from.

These Android smartwatches were built for outdoor adventurers who crave in-depth activity tracking, among other helpful features. If you're happy with the essentials, the Garmin fēnix 5 delivers on the basics and some other goodies. If you want to take it a step further, you may want to go for the fēnix 6. But let's take a closer look at the Garmin fēnix 6 vs. 5.

The Garmin fēnix 6 takes you to the next level

On the surface, the Garmin fēnix 6 and its predecessor might as well be identical twins. They both come in a 47 mm case that is compatible with 22 mm interchangeable bands. Additionally, you can choose between a metal and silicone band when you buy the fēnix 6. There are a few subtle differences to be aware of. The fēnix 6 has a higher-quality Corning Gorilla Glass lens, while the fēnix 5 only has a chemically-strengthened glass lens.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Garmin fēnix 6Garmin fēnix 5
Dimensions47x47x14.7 mm47x47x15.5 mm
Display1.3" sunlight-visible, transflective display1.2" sunlight-visible, transflective display
SensorsGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, accelerometer, thermometerGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer
Water-resistance10 ATM10 ATM
Battery lifeSmartwatch mode: up to 14 days
GPS mode: up to 36 hours
Smartwatch mode: up to 14 days
GPS mode: up to 24 hours
Garmin Pay✔️
Pulse Ox sensor✔️
Battery saving modes✔️

While these two watches look the same, the Garmin fēnix 6 does have a leg up in some important areas. Some people might think that two weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode is more than enough. However, when you're out exploring the great outdoors using GPS and other features, your battery can drain pretty quickly.

On the Garmin fēnix 6, you can see and control how certain settings and sensors impact battery life.

Thankfully, the new customizable Power Manager feature helps with this. On the Garmin fēnix 6, you can see and control how specific settings and sensors impact battery life. Before a workout or trip, you can see how much battery is left in hours and days, so you're prepared. You can adjust your battery saving modes to disable specific features so you can extend battery life as needed.

This new edition also has a Pulse Ox sensor, which is used for altitude acclimation and sleep monitoring. It determines how well your body is absorbing oxygen. The Body Battery is another new feature, which uses heart rate variability, stress, sleep, and other data to help you determine when you're ready to be active or when you may need to rest. It also has the option to track hydration and respiration. Let's not forget you'll also have mobile payments with Garmin Pay.

If you're a runner, you'll love the new PacePro feature, which is designed to help you keep your pacing strategy on track with grade-adjusted guidance as you're running. You can easily create plans right on your watch or via the Garmin Connect app. While you're running the course, you can view your target split pace, the actual split pace, distance to the next split, and how much time you're ahead or behind on your target.

The Garmin fēnix 5 keeps things a bit more simple

Garmin Fenix 5

Source: Garmin Pictured: fēnix 5 Series (Image credit: Source: Garmin)

There's no denying that the fēnix 6 is impressive, but the new features are geared toward a particular user. If you'd rather keep things a bit more simple with your wearable, then the Garmin fēnix 5 might be right up your alley. It's more than a basic wearable but still simple enough for most users to enjoy.

You can also monitor your performance, training, and recovery with the fēnix 5.

With the predecessor, you'll have all of the same essentials, like GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking 10 ATM water resistance, and two-week battery life. You can also monitor your performance, training, and recovery with the fēnix 5. This is ideal for those who want to monitor their progress as they gear up for a race or training cycle. You'll be able to determine if you're training productively, peaking, or overreaching.

You'll also have multiple sports modes to choose from. Some examples include treadmill running and trail running, indoor biking and mountain biking, pool swimming and open water swimming, hiking, climbing, rowing, skiing, snowboarding, and more. As you can see, this model has a lot to offer many different types of athletes.

Garmin fēnix 6 vs. 5 Which should you buy?

For most users, this decision should be an easy one to make as there aren't a lot of significant differences between the Garmin fēnix 5 vs. 6. With that said, many people need there to be some great reason to upgrade. If you're perfectly content with everything that the fēnix 5 has to offer, like multiple sports modes, in-depth tracking, GPS, heart-rate monitoring, 10 ATM water resistance, and 2-week battery life, then you may not need to upgrade to a newer model.

You get all of those same features on the Garmin fēnix 6 plus a couple of extra perks. This model is equipped with battery saving modes, a Pulse Ox sensor, Garmin Pay, and the new PacePro feature. If you simply can't pass on this trifecta, then the upgrade just might be worth your consideration.

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.