The rumour mill strongly suggests that we are due for a hardware update to the Fenix 5 with a Fenix 5 PLUS series.
Q: If you are thinking of buying a Fenix 5, should you buy NOW or wait for the PLUS version?
The Fenix 5 series (5s, 5, 5s and 935) are functionally awesome, they even look great in most people’s eyes, including mine.
The problem is that the onboard sensors, whilst more than perfectly acceptable, are not great: oHR (Elevate, latest generation especially 5X), GPS and, to a lesser extent, altimetry leave a bit to be desired. At least that’s my opinion.
Ignoring my personal opinion, there ARE connectivity issues particularly with the 5 and 5S. If you are dropping your power meter even for only a second every minute it TOTALLY messes up your live and historic data to the point of useLESSness.
Remember: rubbish in…rubbish out. If you are producing incorrect HR or power data then all the awesome Firstbeat functionality will be wrong. Firstbeat perform calculations NOT miracles.
Then we turn to functional omissions. The Fenix 5 series does not (yet) have Garmin PAY (NFC) or Garmin onboard MUSIC. And the Fenix 5 is the top-of-the-range device, usually having all the possible/relevent functionality that is available.
Fenix 5 PLUS
Assuming that the PLUS series rumours are true then the PLUS could contain one of 4 new improvements:
- Fix the sensor issues
- Something totally new for a Garmin sports watch like Galileo (improved positioning as per the Garmin FORETREX model)
- Any combination of the above.
Remember – anything that can be fixed by firmware on the Fenix 5 WILL be fixed by Garmin.
We then have to contemplate if the PLUS series was always planned to be released and hence has the hardware in place OR if this is a hardware fix.
- My guess would be that this is a new hardware iteration to fix the sensor issues.
- My guess with PAY is that it will be rolled out to the Fenix 5 but that it will not happen until bank coverage is more acceptable
- My guess would be that Music will be rolled out but only shortly after it has been proven to work in the 645
- My guess with the Galileo is that we are looking to wait for the Fenix 6 (six) for that.
I think that, from a PR perspective, it would be highly embarrassing and potentially damaging for Garmin to admit the mistake of hardware errors with a release solely designed to correct those errors. So I expect that some new area of functionality (as above) gets rolled out at the same time to justify the PLUS status.
Of course, that may leave existing Fenix 5 owners extremely hacked off. Justifiably so in my opinion.
The precise timing of an ’emergency’ hardware fix could be ‘whenever it is ready‘. As I’ve said, I don’t think an emergency release will happen. So this will be a scheduled release around other new products. The expected other product releases are the Forerunner 245 and possibly the Forerunner 745XT for run and tri-lite. Then also potentially the Edge 530 and/or Edge 830 for cycling. And the running/tri models might be pre-summer (May) and the Edge device(s) might be summer.
I have a Garmin Forerunner 935 (which is a Fenix 5 variant) and I am cool with that. The GPS is not accurate enough for pace for me so I use STRYD. I use a chest strap and not the oHR and I don’t really mind about the altimetry. I would not use the 5 or 5S because of the sensor dropouts. I would not use the 5X as the mapping was too slow to respond on the model I had and it had basically not been properly tested (it could be OK now).
If you want my advice then here it is
- Do not buy a Fenix 5 unless you are aware of the existing issues and are confident that they won’t affect you. It’s a lot of money you are about to spend.
- Wait until May and see precisely what/when Garmin are doing with the PLUS series. The Fenix 5 has awesome functionality, make sure you get a watch you will be super happy with for the next 2 or more years and with no regrets. Patience is a virtue, apparently.
I might also suggest that if you are looking for a TRI watch then there could be other alternatives soon.