The first step to finding a fitness smartwatch is knowing what specs and features you need. The Garmin lineup is robust as ever, especially when it comes to the fēnix watches. Keep in mind that these models aren't geared toward beginners due to all the complex features, but you'll find an assortment of premium wearables in this collection. We've listed some of the best options below to help you determine which model has what you're looking for.
- An all-around great watch: Garmin fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire
- For smaller wrists: Garmin fēnix 5S
- As big as it gets: Garmin fēnix 5X Sapphire
- Right down the middle: Garmin fēnix 6 Pro
- Small but so, so mighty: Garmin fēnix 6S Sapphire
- Larger than life: Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar
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 47 mm 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.
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 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 9 days in smartwatch mode and 14 hours in GPS/heart rate mode.
If you want the biggest watch possible, the 51 mm 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.
A good mid-range option in the 6 Series is the Garmin fēnix 6 Pro. It's not as fancy (or pricey) as some of the other models, but it gets the job done. The 47 mm case comes with stainless steel, titanium, or DLC coated steel bezel. You'll enjoy 2 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.
Looking to get fancy? If so, you may feel yourself being pulled toward the 42 mm Garmin fēnix 6S Sapphire. It's small enough for dainty wrists yet still packs a powerful punch. Choose between a 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.
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, which is 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 type of user you are, you just might find a perfect match here. The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire is stacked with just about everything you could possibly need. It's the best mid-range option of the bunch and has arguably the best feature set. The new additions include full-color topographical mapping, advanced performance metrics, mobile payments, and music storage. Any of the models within the Plus Series are a big step up from the initial release of the standard 5 Series. If you don't need the more advanced perks found on the 6 models, the 5 Plus is a perfect middle ground pick.
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 for you. It's big enough at 42 mm 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 attractive enough to wear for special occasions as well.
It's worth reiterating that all the fēnix 6 models share the same features. All of these smartwatches also have the standard features you'd expect plus new perks like Body Battery energy monitoring that tells you when to be active and when to rest, animated 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 does offer some insight as to which model to consider for various wrist sizes. The 42 mm models are ideal for wrists with a circumference that is between 4.25 and 7.16 inches. The 47 mm models will work best on wrists that range from 4.96 to 8.18 inches. Finally, the massive 51 mm 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. The company uses interchangeable bands, so if you're not pleased with the one that your watch comes with, it's easy to find a replacement. The 42 mm models work with 20 mm bands, the 47 mm models work with 22 mm bands, and the 51 mm models work with 26 mm 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, there are some differences that may influence your final decision. The Pulse Ox sensor is a new feature that is exclusive to the fēnix 6 watches. This feature can measure the saturation of oxygen in your bloodstream. This is helpful when the altitude changes frequently during a workout, which can impact 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 that is based on the elevation profile as well as 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 2 weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode. Even the 5S and 6S Sapphire will last for 9 days in battery mode. It's safe to say that no matter which model you end up with, you won't be disappointed by the battery life.
When you're in a pinch, the battery saving modes will help you tweak your watch settings to manage battery use. 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. are on or off. However, this perk is only available on the Garmin fēnix 6 smartwatches.
If you're still not sure which model is right for you, consider checking out our Best Garmin Smartwatch 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 in time.
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