Garmin Fenix3 – Hands-on

IMG_3750The New GARMIN FENIX 3 was announced in January on the GARMIN BLOG (details below) but now in MARCH 2015 the product is pretty much ready-to-go in the UK.

Edit: <Here> is the 1 minute Fenix 3 review – if that’s what you wanted

20150312_100842[3]Earlier this week in the mountains it was rude not to just try out the Fenix3’s outdoor & triathlon features.


You’ll probably get a first impression something like this (above). It’s a fine-looking device. It looks heavy and bulky but when you compare it to the 920XT and EPIX then weight-wise they’re all pretty similar and you can visually compare the sizes, below.

IMG_3413These devices represent the top-of-the-range offerings from Garmin in 2015. Triathletes like me would find it tricky to choose between the three for pure-triathlon reasons. OK the Fenix3 has pool workouts whereas the 920XT doesn’t – but that’s about it and, in my opinion, it’s likely pool workouts will follow soon in the 920.

There’s no quick release bike mount for the Fenix3 (Edit: there is now!) which might deter some triathletes but, again, that will probably come soon or be offered by 3rd party vendors. As a short course racer I prefer to have a separate bike watch in any case.

But otherwise tri-functionality is THE SAME.

The chart below summarises it all nicely across the three 2015 models (pdf).

920 vs 910 vs fenix3 vs EPIX (Source of all data: Garmin)

For those of you who are unsure of which vendor offering to go with; the Fenix3 vs. the Suunto AMBIT3 is another post for another day. But they are similar-enough looking and both would fit most people’s definition of a daily watch if that is your thing.

Garmin_2014_Fenix3_0980The Fenix3 vs Fenix2 is also another post waiting to be written. However you need to tread carefully here. If you are a triathlete then the Fenix3 is a sensible but not necessary upgrade from the F2. But for those of you more interested in mapping and courses and non-triathlon sports (yes apparently those sports do exist!) then you might pause for a closer look. Some of the features of Fenix2 have been stripped out to simplify and focus the product and many may be in the final version of the Epix later this year (Q2).

Fenix 2 vs Fenix 3



Garmin Fenix3 Sapphire
Garmin Fenix3 Sapphire

For those of you looking to upgrade, I’ll quickly go through some of the key differences.Physical: The F2, F3 and Epix are essentially a very similar size and weight. The F3 has a much higher resolution screen; indeed the F3 is just slightly better than the Epix in this respect. The F3 has a colour screen whereas the F2 does not. The F3 has a very slightly better battery life and will dive to 100m unlike the F2’s 50m. Waypoints and routes are the same but the F3 loses out on saved tracks. The screen really is good; the colours seemed more vibrant to me than on my 920.

Running and cycling with the F2/F3 is similar but with the F3 you additionally have: virtual pacer; personal records; virtual racer and multiple bike profiles. The first of these are nice-to-haves.

Garmin Fenix2 Review
Garmin Fenix2

Whereas the F3 now has an activity tracker over the F2, the F3 loses out on outdoor features such as; hunt/fish calendar, sun and moon info, area calculation, and jumpmaster. Personally I’d want the activity tracker functionality which I suspect is true of many would-be purchasers, so the F3 wins here.

The more modern F3 also takes advantage of IQ apps, the EXO antenna and GLONASS. Depending on what exactly happens with IQ, these are all good to have.

Finally, if in doubt, the F3 is prettier and I’d get one without a second thought.

Price Comparison

Black Friday 2015AmazonUKAmazon2USA
Adidas MiCoach Smart Run£199.99Link$249.99Link
Epson SF-810£201.58Link$189.00Link
Epson SF-710£130.00Link$225.00Link
Epson SF-510£110.00Link$252.27Link
Epson SF-310£89.99Link$195.13Link
Fitbit Charge HR£75.00Link$140.18Link
Garmin Edge 1000 Explore (non-bundle)£345.00Link$449.00Link
Garmin Edge 1000£345.00Link$499.00Link
Garmin Edge 520£176.00Link$299.99Link
Garmin Edge 510£300.00Link$329.99Link
Garmin Edge 810£197.00Link$305.99Link
Garmin Edge 25£100.00Link$160.99Link
Garmin Edge 20£93.50Link$93.54Link
Garmin Epix£322.65Link$549.99Link
Garmin Fenix3 (Sapphire)£424.00Link$499.99Link
Garmin Forerunner 25TBCTBC
Garmin Forerunner 220£149.99Link$190.99Link
Garmin Forerunner 225£160.00Link£248.99Link
Garmin Forerunner 230TBCTBC
Garmin Forerunner 235TBCTBC
Garmin Forerunner 620£215.00Link$239.99Link
Garmin Forerunner 630TBCTBC
Garmin Forerunner 635TBCTBC
Garmin 910 XT£174.00Link$201.58Link
Garmin 920 XT£272.00Link$499.99Link
Garmin VivoActive£177.00Link$149.99Link
Lezyne Super GPS£155.00Link$200.00Link
MIO Cyclo 505HC (Bundle)£290.00Link$400.56Link
Mio Alpha 2£111.00Link$132.99Link
Nike+ SportWatch£208.90Link$149.95Link
Polar M400£115.00Link$181.99Link
Polar M450£105.73Link$135.00Link
Polar V650£194.00Link$239.96Link
Polar V800£242.00Link$336.99Link
Suunto Ambit 3 PEAK£211.45Link$335.63Link
Suunto Ambit 3 Sport£185.00Link$318.54Link
Suunto Ambit 2R£197.21Link$159.00Link
TomTom Runner 2£110.00Link$149.99Link
TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music£229.99Link$249.99Link
TomTom MultiSport£100.00Link$99.99Link
TomTom MultiSport Cardio£130.00Link$164.77Link
TomTom Runner£69.00Link$89.99Link
TomTom Runner Cardio£130.00Link$169.99Link

——————- Jan 2015 Press Release Follows verbatim ———–

Introducing fēnix 3: The Next Smart Multisport GPS Watch from Garmin

5 January 2015 @ 8:36 AM

Fnix 3 lineup

Today we’re excited to announce the next-generation multisport GPS watch, fēnix 3. With the new EXO™ GPS antenna, fēnix 3 boasts features that support a full range of multisport activities, from advanced fitness training, to cross-country and alpine skiing, snowboarding, as well as hiking, climbing and trail running. It’s compatible with the Connect IQ™ store for even more smartwatch functionality and customization. Fēnix 3 comes in three variations: Silver, Gray, and the premium Sapphire, which features a scratch-resistant sapphire lens. With uncompromising details like a stainless steel bezel and sunlight-readable high-resolution colordisplay, the fēnix 3 combines the GPS and wearable technology that Garmin is known for with a sleek new form factor that suits both the outdoors and the boardroom.

Fēnix 3 lifestyle 6

“Premium materials, a rugged aesthetic and smartwatch capabilities make fēnix 3 the perfect watch for someone who lives a rigorous lifestyle,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. “Designed to handle even the most rugged conditions, fēnix 3 provides a comprehensive multisport feature set that can be fully customized to the user, making it easy to transition into everyday activities.”

Uncompromising Design

Available in three variations, fēnix 3 features a new, bold design with superior construction quality: Silver with a red band and crystal lens, Gray with a black band and the premium Sapphire with a stainless steel band and domed sapphire lens. Each features a protective stainless steel bezel and buttons, and glass fiber reinforced housing to survive even the harshest conditions. The new omni-directional steel EXO antenna, when paired with GLONASS and EPO, provides an even faster fix and accurate position than GPS alone.

Each fēnix 3 model boasts a sunlight-readable color display with an LED backlight, so data is easily visible in any light. Water rated to 100 meters, fēnix 3 can withstand swimming and other water activities without fear of damage1. It boasts 20 hours of battery life in GPS mode, 50 hours in UltraTrac mode and six weeks in watch mode. Basic watch functions include alarms, tones, vibration alerts, timer and stopwatch. Users can also choose from a variety of analog and digital watch faces to suit style and personal preferences.


Multisport Training

Fēnix 3 is packed with training features to improve users’ form and fitness. When paired with a heart rate monitor2, fēnix 3 can estimate VO2 max to evaluate the user’s fitness level, and based on this calculation, predict race times. Fēnix 3 can also calculate recovery time and perform a recovery check after intense workouts, so users know how long to rest before their next hard workout to prevent injury. When paired with HRM-Run™, fēnix 3 reports advanced running dynamics, which includes cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time to improve running economy.

In addition to running, fēnix 3 also reports on biking, swimming, skiing and snowboarding, as well as daily activity tracking. In the pool or open water, fēnix 3 can track distance, pace, stroke count and more. Ski/Board mode puts speed, distance, vertical drop and an automatic run counter on the user’s wrist while on the slopes. For everyday wear, fēnix 3 has activity tracking functionality, which provides a customized step goal each morning, then counts steps, calories and distance throughout the day. It also features a vibration move alert after one hour of inactivity and sleep mode to monitor quality of rest at night.

Fēnix 3 lifestyle 4

Outdoor Navigation

Like its predecessors, fēnix 3 comes equipped with a full navigational toolset. The EXO antenna paired with the 3-axis electronic compass, barometer and auto-calibrating altimeter allows fēnix 3 to easily navigate on and off the beaten track.

With fēnix 3, users can plan trips and navigate courses, mark locations, such as campsites or points of interest, and record GPS breadcrumb trails on the move. The TracBack feature can automatically reverse the activity to navigate back to the starting point.

Fēnix 3 lifestyle 3

Connect IQ & Wireless Connectivity

With Connect IQ, fēnix 3 can be completely customized to suit the needs of the user. Connect IQ is the first-ever open platform for third-party developers to create apps and widgets for Garmin products. Through the Connect IQ store on the Garmin Connect Mobile app, users can download customized apps, widgets, data fields and watch faces to make their fēnix 3 even smarter.

Garmin is working with several app developers that are creating fēnix 3 apps for the Connect IQ store. Tempo, for example, is building a smart calendar app that will let users see their upcoming events, and send an email from their watch if they are running late. LifeLine Response personal safety app is expanding to include Garmin devices with 24/7 Professional Safety. AccuWeather will offer an app to give users air quality and allergy information at a glance. iSKI is working on an app to provide the latest weather, snow, lift and slope information at a glance. Octane Fitness is building an app to bridge the gap between outdoor runs and indoor workouts on the Octane Zero Runner to seamlessly track all workout stats. Moxy, a muscle oxygen sensor, is creating an app that monitors the oxygenation of critical muscles during a workout, so users can have more insight on what is happening within their muscles.


In addition to Connect IQ, fēnix 3 is equipped with even more wireless connectivity. The Smart Notification feature allows users to pair their smartphone3 with the watch to receive call, text and email alerts right on their wrist, no matter if their phone is buried deep in their backpack. Automatic uploads to Garmin Connect through Wi-Fi® hotspots or through the Garmin Connect Mobile app allows users to seamlessly upload their data via Bluetooth®. Fēnix 3 users can also use the mobile app to start a LiveTrack session, allowing invited friends and family to follow along in real time during a training session, out on the trail or even on race day. To further enhance training, analysis and sharing, additional features are now available in Garmin Connect’s modern view including multisport support, a new activity detail page, group leaderboards and more.

Fēnix 3 can also act as a wireless remote for the Garmin VIRB® Elite action cam. Using ANT+, users can start and stop recording and take stills right from their wrist. In addition to heart rate monitors, fēnix 3 is compatible with a variety of other ANT+ accessories such as tempe temperature sensor, speed/cadence sensor, and the Vector power meter.

Fenix3 616x616 copy

Fēnix 3 will be available to purchase in Q1 2015. Fēnix 3 Gray and Silver will have a suggested retail price of $499.99 and $549.99 for the HRM-Run bundle. The premium fēnix 3 Sapphire will have a suggested retail price of $599.99.

Garmin water ratings, here.

2 Heart Rate Monitor sold separately.

3 Examples of compatible phones include: iPhone® 4S & later, Android™ 4.3, Galaxy S3 or later, Galaxy Note 3 or HTC One, phone must be Bluetooth Smart. For the full list of compatible smartphones, here.

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2 thoughts on “Garmin Fenix3 – Hands-on

  1. There are numerous complaints on the Garmin forum and DC Rainmaker about the Fenix 3 cutting corners and having a poor performance under trees. Did you compare it against a 910XT under these conditions.

    1. to answer your question. no. but I put up something on the garmin forum last week about 920 compared to ambit3 last week. FINALLY pretty similar. there was a 920 gps update last week which for me made current pace usable. not sure if same for fenix3 (I no longer have it). the ambit3 vs 920 was quite interesting to me as it showed it is difficult to properly compare. under limited tree cover the performance did not always seem the same. what you see on the watch is not necess what you get in the gps track and the software you use MAY further amend that.not sure if this response has helped you Steve !! I tried.

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