Garmin Fenix 3 Review

The Fenix 3 watch is a high end smart device that addresses many of the shortcomings that plagued its predecessor. The awkward GPS acquisition is gone, and the watch now has GLONASS support. It comes in 2 different versions and is a very customize able. Read on for our detailed review.

Aesthetics

The Fenix 3 is about medium sized and is aesthetically pleasing, with the exception of the red bezel around the watch face, which tends to make it stand out a little. This can be remedied by purchasing the sapphire version for 100 more.

The sapphire version has a silver bezel in place of the red one. This helps the watch not stand out as much. It also ditches the goofy blue colored wrist strap for an all metal one. The metal band is resizable although it can be a little tricky to get it to the size you want. The metal bands add considerable weight to the watch but they are much better if you plan to wear the watch for social occasions or other non-fitness activities. You can also switch the watch over to analog mode to make it look a little classier.

Features

The Fenix 3 utilizes the connect IQ to give the watch a few different customization options. In that regard, the watch is similar to a smart phone – it has a touch screen interface and widgets for things like steps, calories, distance, and many others.

There is an app for most activities and these can be accessed with a simple touch or swipe motion. The downside to this type of interface is that you can only have 1 app open at a time. So for instance if you are using the running running tracker, it has to be stopped before switching over to the cycling or swimming app and vice versa. Additionally, when you have an app open it also obstructs the clock function, which can be a bit of annoyance.

That said, Garmin has many pre included apps for climbing, hiking, running, cycling, and indoor/outdoor swimming. Each app is tailored to an activity and can be customized accordingly. It also allows you to add your own or barring that, a quick trip to connect IQ usually has everything you need.

The apps are highly customizable which we have come to expect from Garmin devices. You will be able to display many different data fields and each app has about 10 screens. During our running test we were able to see ground contact time, cadence, and vertical oscillation – a must for improving running speed.​

In order to access the more advanced features like vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and VO2 max the Fenix 3 has to be paired with the HRM-RUN heart/accelerometer sensor. We felt this was a bit of a letdown because the 920XT doesn’t have this limitation and is carriers a similar price tag. While not exactly a deal breaker, it would be nice to see this issue addressed if Garmin ever releases a Fenix 4.

Sleep Tracking

We usually don’t use smart watches for sleep tracking but we found this one to be pretty decent at it. The Fenix has a special wellness widget that will keep track of your overall activity and provide warning popups if you have been sedentary for too long.

Connectivity

The Fenix 3 had both Bluetooth and ANT+ for pairing with sensors and smart phones. And it can also act as a receiving device for your phone. We paired it with our HRM-Run heart rate monitor for more accurate statistics.

The Fenix is jammed packed with an altimeter, barometer temperature sensor, and a compass which can be handy if you are out and about hiking.

We liked how seamless the data sync is – after finishing and activity the watch synced with our smartphone and uploaded out details to the Garmin connect website. We tested this with other apps as well and it worked with no hiccups.

Garmin Fenix 3 Battery Life

We tested the unit out with the GPS on 24/7 and got around 18 hours. This is very good battery life by smart watch standards. The device offers a few power saving options, such as the UltraTrac mode, which turns the GPS on for 10 – 20 seconds intervals and shuts it off. This doubles the battery life but at the cost of location accuracy. The Fenix 3 navigation functions gave us no trouble and were highly accurate.

That said, the battery life for the device is staller, and even tops the almighty 920XT, which is quite impressive. If you need a watch that has near unlimited battery life – this is the device for you.

App

Garmin is known for their solid and detailed tracking, and the Fenix 3 is no exception. The support is excellent and you will be bale to track pretty much any metric you can think of.

The Connect IQ store is similar to Google Play or the App Store but for Garmin products. It allows for developers to create and application and plays it up for download. We think this is a brilliant idea and the store has only grown since its inception.

Adding an app to the watch is simple – just download it and it will automatically sync to the unit. Go to the application screen and then open it and your good to go.

Conclusion

Like other smart watches the Fenix 3 is a bulky device, coming in at over a half inch thick and about 3 ounces. It is also not very classy looking, unless you opt for the sapphire version for an additionally fee. . Additionally, this is one of the most expensive smart watches Garmin offers. At the time of this writing the Garmin Fenix 3 price is about $599. That said,  the device can pretty much track any activity or metric you can think of and its accuracy/app support are pretty spot on.

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Alex Fischer