In less than four short years, Garmin has introduced the fenix – their wearable running/hiking/mountaineering watch – redesigned it into the fenix 2, then upped the ante with the borderline luxury watch, the fenix 3.
Skipping v4, Garmin has recently introduced the fenix 5 series, which comes in three variations that differ in size, color, and battery-life. Feature-wise, the fenix 5S and fenix 5 are similar and follow closely in the footsteps of the prior fenixs, while the fenix 5X comes with advanced mapping and navigation functions.
The fenix has evolved for the better and remains one of the best multi-sport watches on the market. Let’s compare the differences between each version…
The original fenix and fenix 2 started at $400. The fenix 3 was bumped up to $500. And the base model for the fenix 5 is $600. Part of the jump is the addition of wrist heart rate to all the fenix 5s.
The price goes up by adding a sapphire lens, nicer watch band, or extra features like the HRM-Run chest monitor. The fenix 5X maxes out at an eye-popping $850.
Because all the fenix watches except for the 5 series are discontinued, they can often be found for 20-30% off their original price online.
Click the links below to see the current price on Amazon.
PHYSICAL / STYLE DIFFERENCES
This is the most notable difference between the fenix watches. The fenix, fenix 2, and fenix 3 were all roughly the same size and weight. The fenix 3 had a nicer, more office-friendly design and a color screen (compared to the monochromatic displays on the first two fenixs).
But the fenix 5 not only comes in 3 different sizes, it also comes in a variety of watch and band colors. The bands have been redesigned to easily swap one band for another. The fenix 5 colors range from white to gray to silver, depending on the model. Bands range in material from rubber silicone to leather to metal with multiple color options.
The fenix 5S is the smallest of all the fenix watches. One of the bigger complaints of earlier fenixs was that its size and heft were too big for people with thin wrists. The 5S solves that problem with a smaller design. The fenix 5 is the same size as the earlier fenixs. And the 5X is the biggest, nearly 2″ in diameter.
All four watches work well running, cycling, swimming, hiking, ultrarunning, and skiing. All have a long battery life, built-in altimeter, and are compatible with accessories (including heart rate monitors, foot pods, and bike speed/cadence sensors).
The fenix 2, 3, and fenix 5 are best for triathletes. They come with multi-sport and track pool and open-water swims. The fenix 5 is nearly identical in features to Garmin’s other high-end multi-sport watch, the Forerunner 935.
The fenix 5 is the only fenix that includes has a golf profile that provides yardage distance to the green plus scoring and other data.
The first three fenix watches had a long battery – up to 50 hours while tracking activities and up to 6 weeks in watch mode. This dropped considerably with the fenix 5, mostly because the wrist heart rate chews up a lot of power. The fenix 5S has up to 14 hours in GPS mode while the larger fenix 5 and 5X have up to 24 hours.
They are all waterproof, but while the fenix and fenix 2 are waterproof up to 50 meters, the fenix 3 and 5 are waterproof up to 100 meters.
Each fenix tracks time, speed, distance while running, hiking, and cycling. And all but the original fenix tracks swim-specific metrics like counting pool laps and strokes.Each fenix also works great for skiing and snowboarding. They track speed and distance accounting for vertical drop. They’ll also auto-pause on the ski lift and start a new lap at the beginning of each run.
All four watches are equipped with an altimeter and temperature sensor. The altimeter provides steady and accurate elevation readings. The temperature sensor is nice, but can be thrown off by internal skin temperatures. For more accurate readings, consider investing in the tempe sensor that can be placed on a shoe or jacket.
Maps & Memory
The big update to the fenix 5X is the addition of turn-by-turn navigating (and this applies only to the 5X version).
This is similar to a car GPS – the fenix 5X provides right/left/straight instructions while you run or bike along a route.The fenix 5X also comes with detailed topo and road maps. This is a big improvement over the breadcrumb maps found on the fenix 5, 5S, and earlier models.
The overall storage size of the fenix 5 has been bumped up quite a bit. It’s now 64 mb compared to 25 or less for earlier models.
The fenix 3 and 5 series are also compatible with Garmin’s new Connect IQ. This feature allows 3rd party software developers to create and upload new apps, watch faces, and data fields to the watch.
Alerts and General Features
All four watches are fairly equal in this regard. Auto-pause and auto-lap are standard on each watch. Ski and Snowboard mode is also available on every fenix. Multi-sport and vibration alerts are available on the fenix 2, 3, and 5, but not the original.
The fenix watches also have smart notifications. These alert you to texts, emails and calls when the watches are paired with a smartphone. This feature is available on every fenix.
Singular only to the fenix 3 and 5 series is activity tracking. Like what you’d find on a vivofit or Fitbit, activity tracking counts steps, creates goals, and offers reminders to move when you’ve been stationary too long. Fitting that this feature is found on the fenix 3 as it’s stylish enough to be worn throughout the day in a variety of settings.
Interval and custom workouts, virtual partners, as well as running dynamics (cadence, vertical oscillation, recovery adviser) are found on the fenix 2, 3, and 5 series.
Each watch can sync with Garmin smartphone apps with bluetooth. Only the fenix 3 and the fenix 5X (not the 5 or 5S, curiously) can upload wirelessly through wi-fi.
All four watches are compatibility with these accessories: heart rate monitor, bike speed/cadence sensor, foot pod, and temperature sensor. The fenix 2, 3, and 5 are compatible with a cycling power meter and VIRB camera. The fenix 5 is also compatible with Varia bike sensors, a radar device that alerts you when a car approaches from behind.
Each watch functions well as a day-to-day watch. The fenix and fenix 2 have some smaller features not found on the latest model including: a hunt/fish calendar, sun and moon information, and area calculation. And the fenix 3 and 5 can control music on smartphone remotely as well.
If you crave the latest and greatest in a stylish exterior, pay the extra $200-$300 and splurge on the fenix 5. Feature-wise, it’s better than the fenix 3 and looks fantastic. The fenix 5S is perfect if you have smaller wrists. And the fenix 5X if you want advanced maps and navigation tools.
But if you want all the benefits of the fenix 5 but don’t care about wrist heart rate or the color/band options, stick with the fenix 2 or fenix 3. They are great watches with tons of features and are much less expensive.