What you will learn
Garmin Fenix 3 Review
The first thing you notice about the Fenix 3 is its sheer size: the watch is really huge. However, Garmin does not try to hide it in any way, but gives the watch a brute exterior design that almost screams: I survive everything. And so in the end I have to say that I really, really like the watch.
On the front there is a round, 1.2-inch and transflective color display that can still be read well under difficult lighting conditions. The resolution is 218 × 218 pixels. For a surcharge of around $100, the display is even protected from scratches and other adversity by sapphire glass.
The Sapphire Edition also comes with a metal bracelet, otherwise Garmin supplies a rubber bracelet. The manufacturer’s accessories also include leather bracelets, with which the Fenix 3, as one of the very few sports watches, also cuts a fine figure on somewhat finer occasions. Unfortunately, the bracelets can only be replaced with a screwdriver and not with a quick release. If you want to quickly switch to rubber wristbands for sport to protect the leather, you have to do something.
In the meantime, other versions of the Fenix 3 are also available, including rose gold and titanium – or the Fenix 3 HR with an optical heart rate sensor on the back. In addition, the Fenix is 3 to 10 ATM waterproof and therefore suitable for swimming without any problems.
The Fenix 3 is operated using three buttons on the left and two buttons on the right. There is a button on the left to activate the backlight – and two other buttons to scroll through lists. On the right there is a start / stop button to confirm and a back button, which is also used to mark laps during training. Plain and simple, that’s how it should be.
With the up and down buttons, the user scrolls through a vertically arranged list of health home screens. In addition to the time, there is a standard daily activity, compass, altimeter, barometer and temperature. In the PC application and in the smartphone app, it is possible to rearrange or hide the widgets.
The Garmin Fenix 3 offers ANT +, Bluetooth and even WiFi. The ANT + connects the watch to various accessories, such as chest straps for pulse measurement, cadence sensors for bicycles or stride sensors for shoes. It is also practical that the Fenix 3 supports several sensors at the same time – if you have several bicycles, for example, you don’t have to convert the cadence sensors every time.
The Fenix 3 connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth, and thanks to WLAN, the watch can also synchronize with the cloud when no mobile phone is in range. We had no connectivity issues during the entire Review period. Unfortunately, the Fenix 3 does not support Bluetooth sensors.
The Garmin Fenix 3 also serves as an activity tracker and counts the steps. You can also set a daily target that dynamically adjusts the watch if desired to motivate the wearer to move more and more. In addition, the Fenix 3 also counts the climbed floors – here you can also set a daily goal.
Furthermore, there is also an inactivity alarm that signals if you sit on your butt for too long – or if you stand still for the most part.
Those who wear the Garmin Fenix 3 at night will be rewarded with details about their sleep. The sports watch automatically determines the time of falling asleep and waking up and distinguishes between light and deep sleep. However, there are no details on REM phases. Sleep detection works quite reliably and provides exciting data in the long term.
For example, if you work on getting to bed earlier or getting up earlier, you can admire your progress in the statistics. While the weight of the Fenix 3 didn’t bother me during the day, I found the clock for bed almost too bulky.
Heart rate sensor: HRM-Run
We tested the Fenix 3 together with Garmin’s HRM-Run pulse belt, which is also available individually from around 80 euros. In addition to a heart rate sensor, this belt also has an integrated motion sensor that provides some interesting data on the running style. The evaluation is reserved for the top models from Garmin – and of course this includes the Fenix 3. The vivoactive, for example, is limited to the pulse data in the HRM run.
This running style data then tells the user how badly he stomps and bounces, namely in the form of ground contact time and vertical movement while running. The following applies to both data: the less, the more effective the running style and the better. In addition, the HRM Run also counts the step frequency, where the highest possible values are desirable. With the HRM Run, I personally found that I stomp a lot.
Finally, the Fenix 3 also measures the endurance performance with the HRM-Run, namely in the form of the VO2max value, separately for running and cycling. The VO2max value provides information about the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can transport into the muscles under stress. After the workouts, you also get an individual recommendation for the regeneration time.
Finally, the Garmin Fenix 3 also offers an integrated GPS module – and a self-calibrating barometric altimeter. As a result, the user not only receives an image of the distance covered after his runs or bike tours, but also an altitude profile including ascent and descent meters.
I would also like to mention the virtual racer function, with which you can compete against a ghost – as you know it in car racing on the computer – either against yourself or against other users. With the live tracking feature, it is also possible to share other people live in your own workout and view the current position on the map.
In addition, there is also a trackback function that guides the user back to the starting point along the route covered so far. Particularly practical for people who like to get lost.
The Fenix 3 also has a few tricks for swimmers. With the help of the motion sensor, she not only recognizes the swimming style, but also how many trains the athlete needs for a lane, and uses this to determine the so-called Swolf value, which allows conclusions to be drawn about the efficiency.
In the open water, the Fenix 3 determines the distance covered by GPS. With the HRM-Swim and the HRM-Tri, Garmin also has heart rate belts in its range that were specially developed for swimmers and triathletes.
Apps & Co.
A big advantage of the Fenix 3 is its configurability. The Garmin Connect-IQ store has dozens of alternative watch faces, data fields for workouts, widgets for health home screens and apps. The various extensions can be installed either via the smartphone app or via the Garmin software available for Windows and Mac OS X.
From weather apps and watch faces to apps for additional sports to alternative pulse and tempo displays for workouts, there is a lot here. There are currently 91 apps, 257 workout data fields, 558 watch faces and 69 widgets, including exotics such as an advertisement for Slovak name days.
And while we’re at apps: Garmin offers a mobile application for Android, iOS and Windows. Here you can evaluate the various statistics on steps, sleep, training etc. and create your own training. There is also the possibility to add equipment. And so you get a warning, for example, if you have covered too many kilometers with your running shoes and it is urgent to change.
I still find the LiveTrack function nice, with which you can share current outdoor training sessions with others. Via a link, friends and relatives can then follow live where they are in the browser.
And finally, the Garmin Fenix 3 also offers a range of smartwatch functions and, for example, displays notifications from the smartphone including individual text snippets of the notifications. The other way around, it is also possible to control the media player on the cell phone or – via a third-party app – the smartphone camera. Thumbs up.
Garmin’s web interface Garmin Connect is probably the most convenient way to look at the training results again. Here you will find the functions of the smartphone app as well as a few extras, for example regarding the evaluation of previous training sessions. There are also a large number of predefined training plans, from 5K runs to the Olympic triathlon and the possibility to create your own training courses.
The Fenix 3 offers strong battery performance: According to the manufacturer, it lasts for six weeks in watch mode as an activity tracker. With activated GPS, the runtime should be 20 hours, in UltraTrac mode with reduced accuracy it is even 50 hours. The values coincide with our experience.
The Garmin Fenix 3 is currently the ultimate fitness watch. There is hardly a competitor who can offer such a range of functions and at the same time looks outrageously chic. However, this also has its price: the basic version of the Fenix 3 with a rubber bracelet and without a pulse sensor or pulse belt already costs $350 . This watch should be worth every penny to enthusiastic athletes.
AB SMART HEALTH REVIEW