While the world drools over the Apple watch, serious outdoor enthusiasts and athletes know that investing in a dedicated sports watch is money well spent, and Gamin makes this possible with the Fenix 3. The Fenix is a successor to the Fenix two introduced last year, but in this iteration brings to the table a plethora of new features such as a new color screen, faster GPS locking and more activity modes.
Although you get a limited number of smartphone notifications, the goal of the Garmin Fenix 3 is to track your vital statistics as you work out indoors or journey through the great outdoors. The Fenix 3 is ideal for mountaineers, cyclists, triathletes and even trail and ultra-runners, and can even be ordered in a more tough Sapphire front glass version hence the name and an additional metal strap.
Other versions of the Fenix 3 are grey with black band and silver face and silver with red band and silver face, and both are outfitted with a mineral glass lens, which is also tough and scratch resistant. The large watch face of the Fenix 3 makes it suitable for full time professionals that swap the suit for adventure gear in their spare time, meaning this Garmin GPS looks and feels great with any attire.
What’s in the Box?
Highlights of the Fenix 3
Design of the Fenix 3
While the previous versions of the Fenix Garmin watch showcased a chunkier design, the Fenix 3 Garmin running watch is still large, but this time around is more refined. As mentioned earlier, the screen is one the most noteworthy features of the Fenix 3 and is backlit and uses a color system Garmin calls Chroma. The 218 pixel diameter display of this Garmin running watch is easy to read in sunlight and it waterproof capability has doubled from 50 meters to 100 meters.
The battery life of the Fenix 3 is simply insane and rings in at an astounding 16 hours and that’s with GPS. Bluetooth and the screen enabled, which mean you can hike all weekend without taking the charge with you. That’s not all – the battery life of the Fenix 3 can be further extended to 50 hours when used in the UltraTrac mode, which pings for a GPS location every minute rather than every second.
And if you use the Fenix 3 in the watch only mode meaning just to tell time, you won’t have to charge it for a whopping three months. Take note that battery life of the Fenix 3 takes a toll when smartphone notifications are enabled such as texts, calls and Uber updates among others. On a brighter note, battery life is enhanced by the 218 x 218 ‘color’ screen, which to add is transflective, meaning it is clearly visible in direct sunlight.
The screen however is not so bright, but easy to view when you’re in the great outdoors. To view the screen of the Garmin Fenix 3 GPS watch at night or low light conditions, simply press the backlight button locates at the top left to illuminate the display. The Garmin Fenix 3 looks good as your main watch or fitness tracking watch, and will even track your sleep patterns when worn to bed. With regards to sleep tracking, the metrics displayed are quite limited, where you get an accurate reading of the number of hours you spent in bed in the form of a graph.
Garmin Fenix 3 Features
The Fenix 3 is not just a Garmin running watch, but offers a plethora of sports watch capabilities with an onsite compass, GLONASS, GPS, barometer and altimeter. Satellite connectivity is enabled owing to the EXO antenna – an integrated receiver that is located in the protective stainless steel bezel of the watch. The compass of the Fenix 3 allows you to track your progress for climbing and walking and even gives you a clear view of the path you’ve plotted.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that make the Fenix 3 probably the best GPS watch you can get your hands on is its support for triathlon, indoor workouts, swimming, biking, running, walking, snowboarding and skiing as well. Adding to its list of features, the Fenix 3 comes with a Breadcrumb Trail feature, which guides hikers to their starting point. Regardless of the sport you’re tracking, you will be amazed at the breadth of data provided by the Fenix 3 including cadence and vertical oscillation.
The only caveat of the Garmin Fenix 3 is the lack of a heart rate sensor, which is somewhat a good thing considering that the most accurate way to track heart rate or body position is still with a chest strap. Whether you’re using the Fenix 3 for hiking or swimming, this GPS watch will alert you on the hour when you’ve been static for too long. It also includes myriad unique features such as recovery time calculation, stroke count for swimmers and even VO2 max plus for collaborative training sessions.
As mentioned earlier and a new addition to the Fenix 3 is smartwatch notifications, which are enabled when paired with a compatible smartphone such as Android and iPhone. Garmin has also teamed with several third party app developers to create Fenix 3 apps such as Accuweather for pollen count, air quality, LifeLine Response for personal safety, Moxy and Octane fitness.
Fenix 3 Software and Connectivity
At the end of the day, you will want to review your stats, and the Garmin Fenix 3 makes this task easier than ever through the Garmin Connect app available on IOS and Android devices. The app itself it class leading and if don’t have a compatible smartphone, you can use Garmin’s even better web based version that allows you to enter in challenges with your friends and earn badges and even plot routes..
All in all, everything syncs well and easily, and there’s even a LiveTrack session, where you can invite family and friends to follow you in real time on the trail on during a training session. Other new features include group leaderboards and an activity detail page. The Fenix 3 can also be paired with the VIRB Elite action cam, which uses ANT+ technology to allow you to take stills right from your wrist.
Pros of the Fenix 3
Cons of the Fenix 3
The Fenix 3 is an excellent addition to Garmin’s rather extensive lineup of fitness devices, and brings to the table a host of new features. It is available in several color variants, making it a great fit to be worn at work with a suit or fitness gear. If you’re looking for the best fitness watch that is designed for casual fitness as well as hardcore triathletes, Garmin has nailed the spot with the Fenix 3 by offering you impressive battery life and the ability to track a wide range of sports.
Physical & Performance
|Physical dimensions||2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (51.0 x 51.0 x 16.0 mm)|
|Display size, WxH||1.2” (30.4 mm)|
|Display resolution, WxH||218 x 218 pixels; transflective MIP color|
|Negative mode display||✅|
|Weight||Silver/Dark: 2.9 oz (82 g)|
|Battery||Rechargeable 300 mAh lithium-ion|
|Battery life||Up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 20 hours in GPS training mode; up to 6 weeks in watch mode|
|Water rating||10 ATM|
|Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone)||✅|
|Watch functions||Time of day (12/24h), calendar (day/date), daily alarm, stop watch, timer, sunrise/sunset alerts|
Maps & Memory
|Built-in memory||32 MB; available 23 MB|
|Virtual Pacer™ (compares current pace to target)||✅|
|V02 max estimate||✅|
|Accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without need for a foot pod)||✅|
|Compatible with Vector™||✅|
|Multiple bike profiles||✅|
|Bike speed/cadence sensor||Yes (optional)|
|Heart rate monitor||Yes (Some versions)|
|Virtual Partner® (train against a digital person)||✅|
|Virtual Racer™ (compete against other activities)||✅|
|Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed)||✅|
|Multi-sport (changes sport mode with a press of a button)||✅|
|Auto multisport (switch sport modes with 1 button press)||✅|
|Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts)||✅|
|Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace)||✅|
|Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals)||✅|
|Heart rate-based calorie computation||✅|
|Calculates calories burned||✅|
|Training Effect (measures impact of an activity on your aerobic fitness)||✅|
|Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)||✅|
|Stroke type identification (e.g. freestyle)||✅|
|Open water swim metrics (distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)||✅|
Activity Tracking Features
|Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)||✅|
|Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)||✅|
|Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)||✅|
|Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data)||✅|
|Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)||✅|