Which Garmin fēnix model is right for me? How to choose the perfect size & features
The first step to finding a fitness smartwatch is knowing what specs and features you need. The Garmin lineup is as robust as ever, especially for the fēnix watches. Keep in mind that these models aren't geared toward beginners due to all the advanced features and premium perks, but you'll find a wide array of options for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. We've rounded up some of the best Garmin fēnix models below.
An all-around great watch
The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus Series brought some nifty upgrades to the table, including built-in routable topographical maps, music storage, and mobile payments. The advanced mapping delivers at-a-glance navigation and location tracking. You can choose between multiple sizes (including the regular 47mm case) and materials. The battery lasts for 12 days in smartwatch mode, 18 hours in GPS mode, and 8 hours in GPS/music mode, and it's waterproof up to 100 meters.
For smaller wrists
If 47mm is too big and you're not concerned with having the latest features, you may prefer the Garmin fēnix 5S. This multisport GPS watch comes in a modest 42mm fiber-reinforced polymer case with a stainless steel bezel and rear cover. The fēnix 5S is from the original series so that you won't get the premium perks found on the Plus models, but you still get GPS, heart-rate monitoring, built-in activity profiles, and 10 ATM water resistance. The battery will last nine days in smartwatch mode and 14 hours in GPS/heart rate mode.
As big as it gets
If you want the biggest watch possible, the 51mm Garmin fēnix 5X Sapphire might be a better choice for you. It comes in a fiber-reinforced polymer case with a stainless steel bezel and rear cover, but you get more battery with this model— up to 12 days in smartwatch mode and up to 20 hours in GPS/heart rate mode. The main difference between this monster and its little brother is that this model gives you access to full-color mapping.
Right down the middle
A good mid-range option in the 6 Series is the Garmin fēnix 6 Pro. It's not as fancy (or pricey) as some other models, but it gets the job done. The 47mm case comes with stainless steel, titanium, or DLC coated steel bezel. You'll enjoy two weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode and 10 hours in GPS/music mode. Most of the differences among the models relate to the outer appearance. They all have standard features, plus music storage, Garmin Pay, and 10 ATM water resistance.
Small, but so mighty
Looking to get fancy? If so, you may feel yourself being pulled toward the 42mm Garmin fēnix 6S Sapphire. It's small enough for dainty wrists yet still packs a powerful punch. Choose between stainless steel or Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) coated steel bezel and multiple color options. Elsewhere, you get nine days of battery life in smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS/music mode. Some new features include maps with turn-by-turn navigation, round-trip routing, and a pulse ox sensor to monitor blood oxygen saturation.
Larger than life
Remember when we mentioned major differences? The biggest one of all is whether or not you choose a solar-powered model. The huge Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar is designed with Power Glass, a transparent solar charging lens that uses the sun's energy to extend battery life. The battery lasts for 21 days in smartwatch mode, which can be extended to 24 days with solar charging when used in the right conditions. If you spend the majority of your time exploring the outdoors, this feature just might be worth the big bucks.
Which Garmin fēnix model is right for me? How to choose
All of the Garmin fēnix models have something slightly different to offer. Depending on what you're seeking, you may just find the perfect Android smartwatch to meet your needs. The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire is a great mid-range option that offers an excellent feature set. You'll have full-color mapping, advanced performance metrics, mobile payments, and music storage. Any of the models within the 5 Plus Series are a major upgrade from the standard 5 Series. If you don't need the more advanced perks found on the Garmin fēnix 6 models, the 5 Plus is an ideal option that saves you some money.
If you want all of the juicy goodness that the 6 models offer, but you'd also like a watch that can be fashionable when necessary, the Garmin fēnix 6S Sapphire was made just for you. It's big enough for most people at 42mm without being overwhelmingly huge. The main reason to choose this model is for its high-quality design and premium materials. It can still handle your outdoor expeditions, but it's also attractive enough to wear for special occasions as well.
It's worth reiterating that the Garmin fēnix 6 and fēnix 5 models share many of the same features. If you're unsure whether you should upgrade from the 5 to the 6, let's recap the differences. The fēnix 6 models provide you with the standard features you'd expect from Garmin as well as some new perks, like Body Battery energy monitoring that tells you when to be active and when to rest, animated on-screen workouts, the ClimbPro feature that offers details on current and upcoming climbs, mountain biking metrics, safety features, and more.
1. Consider the size
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a smartwatch is the size. Both the fēnix 5 and 6 models are available in three different size options: 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm. As you can imagine, the size of your wrist comes into play here. If you have a small, dainty wrist, you'll probably want to stick to a smaller model, such as the 5S or 6S Sapphire.
With that in mind, Garmin offers some insight into which model to consider for various wrist sizes. The 42mm models are ideal for wrists with a circumference that is between 4.25 and 7.16 inches. The 47mm models will work best on wrists that range from 4.96 to 8.18 inches. Finally, the massive 51mm models can accommodate wrists between 5 and 8.26 inches. All you have to do is take a tape measure and determine the circumference of your wrist to choose the best size.
2. Choose the right band
Generally speaking, silicone is the most common band material for fitness-focused smartwatches. However, the company uses interchangeable bands, so it's easy to find a replacement if you're not pleased with the one that your watch comes with. For example, the 42mm models work with 20mm bands, the 47mm models work with 22mm bands, and the 51mm models work with 26mm bands.
Depending on which Garmin fēnix model you choose, there may be more than one band option. Silicone is the standard band, but models such as the 6 Sapphire and 6X Pro Solar are also available with a stylish metal band. It's important to note that this will increase the overall weight of the watch. It might look nice for an evening out, but it's not exactly an ideal choice for high-intensity workouts or outdoor adventures.
3. Think about the features
While the Series 5 and 6 models have a lot in common, some differences may influence your final decision. The Pulse Ox sensor is a new feature exclusive to the fēnix 6 watches except for the Garmin 5X Plus models. This feature can measure the saturation of oxygen in your bloodstream. This is helpful when the altitude frequently changes during a workout, impacting your blood oxygen levels. It's also useful for providing better sleep data.
Another new addition to the fēnix 6 models is PacePro, which allows you to create a pace plan. This can be done by creating a plan in the Garmin Connect app or simply by selecting a distance. You'll then be able to customize the guidance based on your racing strategies. The watch will provide dynamic grade-adjusted pace guidance based on the elevation profile and the distance of your activity.
4. Battery life concerns
As you can probably imagine, the larger the watch is, the larger the battery will be. That's why so many of the biggest Garmin fēnix models can offer a full two weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode. Even the 5S and 6S Sapphire will last for nine days in battery mode. So it's safe to say that no matter which model you end up with, you won't be disappointed by the battery life.
The battery-saving modes will help you tweak your watch settings to manage battery use when you're in a pinch. For example, the battery saver lets you control your daily settings so you can adjust specific features like backlight, smartphone connection, and heart-rate monitoring. However, this perk is only available on the Garmin fēnix 6 smartwatches.
If you're still unsure which model is right for you, consider checking out our roundup of the best Garmin Smartwatches guide. It includes several other Garmin wearables that you might find more suitable, especially if you're not looking for a super-advanced watch at this point.
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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.