Fenix 3, Garmin's latest GPS running watch, is the do-it-all watch.
It not only tracks your runs, but also records workout statistics whether you are swimming, cycling, skiing or doing the triathlon. It is also a fitness tracker that monitors your daily physical activities - counting the steps taken, collating the calories burned and keeping tabs on your sleep.
The Fenix 3 also has a built-in altimeter, barometer and compass to give real-time information based on your surroundings. When linked by Bluetooth to your smartphone (Android and iOS), it shows notifications on its colour display.
We reviewed the Fenix 3 Sapphire model bundled with HRM-Run, the heart-rate monitor chest strap ($819). The regular Fenix 3 model costs $619, or $689 with HRM-Run.
The Sapphire model comes with a stainless steel watch band with sapphire glass to protect the display. The regular models (grey and silver) come with rubber watch bands and scratch-resistant mineral glass.
The big round face has a 1.2-inch colour display with a resolution of 218 x 218 pixels. A sleek stainless steel bezel, which is also the GPS antenna, surrounds the display.
There are three buttons on the left and two on the right.
The Fenix 3 will not look out of place in the gym or boardroom. The metallic watch band adds brownie points to its good looks.
But with this band, the Fenix 3 weighs a hefty 175g, which is rather heavy for workouts. Thankfully, it comes with a much lighter rubber watch band that can be replaced easily using the bundled screwdrivers.
The Fenix 3 displays the time and date by default. You can switch the watch face by downloading and installing new watch faces via the Garmin Connect Mobile app (iOS or Android) or Garmin Express software (PC and Mac). But the third-party watch faces caused the watch to crash at times.
Pressing the middle and bottom buttons on the left toggles to the digital compass, calendar, barometer, altimeter, thermometer, fitness tracking and notifications panels.
To get to the workout page, hit the top button on the right. To scroll up and down to select the workout, use the middle and bottom buttons on the left side. To start, press the top-right button again.
This arrangement is not intuitive. Even after three weeks, I found myself trying the lower-right button to scroll down, which took me back to the default time display.
The Fenix 3 works like Garmin's fitness trackers, such as Vivofit. It remembers your activity level for the day and if you have not met your target, it sets a less ambitious goal for the next day.
The watch also alerts you to get moving if it detects that you have been keeping still for too long.
Sleep tracking is automatic, but the watch can be easily fooled. When I left it on a table for half a day, it thought I had slept for 12 hours.
During workouts, however, the Fenix 3 performed impeccably.
It was able to secure a GPS fix in less than 1min. Be it running or cycling, the Fenix 3's distances tracked were no different from my TomTom Runner Cardio GPS watch.
With the Garmin HRM-Run strapped on, the heart-rate readings were consistent with those from my Wahoo Fitness Blue heart-rate monitor chest strap.
For swimming, you need to key in the length of the swimming pool before you start. Only then will the watch count the laps correctly.
The Garmin Connect app and the website need improvement. You get plenty of data, but the presentation needs to be more readable and user friendly.
On the other hand, battery life is quite superb. Connected to my Apple iPhone constantly, it lasted nearly four days. That is better than most smartwatches in the market.
If you are looking for a running watch that can go everywhere with you and does practically everything, strap on the Garmin Fenix 3.
BACKGROUND STORY TECH SPECS
Material: Stainless steel case with sapphire glass display
Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+
Water resistance: 100m
Weight: 85g (with rubber watch band)
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 5/5
This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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