My Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review is in its final draft but you will have already noticed that the Fenix 5 Plus series has hit the shelves. Like me you are probably WOWED by the marketing and WOWED by the new features. But, like me, you are probably also WOWED by the price tag underneath the watch on that imaginary, internet-based shop shelf.
$1150…really?…is the the Fenix 5X plus worth that much?
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Pricing
We will come back to pricing details later.
For now, here is a simplified overview of the pricing. Dollars and Euro prices are ‘about the same‘ and I’ve rounded up the 599.99s to 600 for the sake of readability.
There is a premium for sapphire glass and a premium for titanium construction. These both come as standard on the 5X Plus.
|US$ Base (Eu)||US$ Sapphire/titanium||£ Base||£ Sapphire/titanium|
|Fenix 5S plus||700||800||600||700|
|Fenix 5 plus||700||800-850||600||700-750|
|Fenix 5X plus||–||1150||–||750|
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review – What’s the difference
I don’t want to dwell too much on the exact details in this article. Here is a link if you want to read about the details.
Apart from the Fenix 5X Plus Pulse Oximetry sensor, the Fenix 5 Plus models are all equally featured. The differences come in the watches’ sizes and materials. The 5X Plus is bigger than the 5 Plus which is bigger than the 5S Plus. You already knew that. The bigger it is, the heavier it is and the wider the QuickFit bands. You pay more for the more durable sapphire glass and you pay more for the lighter and stronger titanium.
There are NO LONGER any confusions around differently sized screens. The 5S non-plus WAS smaller in pixels than the 5 non-plus. The new Fenix 5 Plus and the new Fenix 5S Plus have the same size screen with the same resolution.
There are no longer any confusions about a sporty Forerunner 935 that was also the same…but subtly different. There is not (yet) a replacement Forerunner 945 aka Forerunner 935 Plus. That will possibly come as soon as September with some special goodies like CDA support.
Take Out: In terms of software features: the Fenix 5 Plus series are pretty much all the same when comapred to each other
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series – Battery Life
You might expect that the 5 Plus series has ‘better’ battery life than before. Generally it does NOT have better battery life than the Fenix 5, although the Fenix 5X Plus is the exception with highly credible battery stats, as shown below.
|Smartwatch Mode||GPS Mode||GPS+Music||UltraTrac|
|Fenix 5S||9 days||14 hours||–||35 hours|
|Fenix 5||2 Weeks||24 hours||–||60 hours|
|Fenix 5X||12 days||20 hours||–||35 hours|
|Fenix 5S Plus||7 days||11 hours||4.5 hours||25 hours|
|Fenix 5 Plus||12 days||18 hours||8 hours||42 hours|
|Fenix 5X Plus||20 days||32 hours||13 hours||70 hours|
I guess we don’t need to know why battery life is slightly worse but it will be linked to factors like: new battery; new processor; better power management components. The 4.5 hours with the 5S Plus for GPS+music is maybe a tad too low for comfort from experience with similar devices. But the 32 hours of Best GPS mode in the 5X Plus is market-leading for UltraRunners. Even looking at the 18 hours of GPS use with the Fenix 5 Plus then that’s probably enough for many people in an Ironman (18 hours will be less in reality once sensors are paired and features enabled)
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Features
It’s got a boat-load of features. Actually, I tell a lie. It’s got a CRUISE SHIP full of features. A veritable OIL TANKER of sporty goodness.
The Fenix 5 Plus Series have all the sporty stuff you need to display on-screen for almost any sport and for most outdoors activities. It can connect to pretty much any sport sensor to create a data-rich sporting experience for you. You can share that experience live with friends via your mobile phone or share your detailed stats via the excellent Garmin Connect data platform. You can plan routes and navigate with onboard maps and use your watch to pay for coffees en-route. You can listen to your favourite music tracks as you navigate with accurate GALILEO satellite positioning.
The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus SERIES are even pro triathlon watches. Each one in the series does everything properly, from correctly handling the rest between your swim sets to correctly taking you through Otillo or the duration of a looooong Ironman.
There are only a tiny number of things that I can struggle to think of that the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus series can’t do. Here they are: Garmin Fenix 6 for 2019.
But: IS IT WORTH IT?
What something is ‘worth’ is a relative term. Is it relative to the competition? to the cost of production? or relative to something else? Let’s see…
The Market Landscape
The market for sports watches IS changing. Probably right now the market is turning against Garmin, to an extent. I cover that here: PEAKTASTIC YEAR FOR GARMIN – 2018. However the movement against Garmin’s dominance of the market is happening AT THE LOWER END. Other than in niche use-cases, no-one is challenging Garmin in the premium space where the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus range sits.
In reality the biggest competitors to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus are: The original Fenix 5 and apathy.
Thus Garmin have a free competitive rein to charge what they like. And by that I mean they probably don’t care a jot about the pricing of almost any other product – as far as the Fenix 5 Plus goes. What they will care about is getting the right price that can be WILLINGLY AFFORDED by a sufficiently large number of people.
This is going to be a really simple supply vs. demand issue. And that’s where it gets interesting FOR YOU.
You see, what’s happening is that Garmin have been ramping up production for a while. That’s why the stock is hitting the shelves NOW so that demand can be satisfied NOW. That didn’t happen in the same way with the Fenix 5.
Quite a number of resellers/shops have the chance to buy reasonable amounts of stock. With the original Fenix 5 this wasn’t the case. A shop made a large order and, maybe, didn’t quite get the full order in one go. But whatever you got. you sold. And you sold it at the RRP.
This was a KERCHING moment for many resellers who only wished they had ordered and received more. With the Fenix 5, as word spread, other retailers gradually started to order more. Economics 101 hit once there was sufficient unsold stock and then some discounting started where Garmin were unable to control the discounters.
This time around that period of KERCHINGYNESS will be shorter. There is much more stock. Probably, also, the higher prices will mean there is less demand and there may simply be less demand anyway as some Fenix 5 owners will not want to upgrade. An English Phrase is appropriate for the retailers: “Make hay while the sun shines“.
Garmin have already realised that this will happen. So you will see controlled distribution (restricted supply) to help maintain prices, where that is allowed and practical. For example, in the UK, we have seen that once again COTSWOLD have one of the ‘exclusives’ on the Fenix 5X Plus. Although Amazon.co.uk already have an ASIN/SKU number at the ready to list on their site. Watch out Cotswold!
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review – Is it worth it?
Once again the ‘Is it worth it?‘ question will be answered, in part, by the ‘Can you afford it?‘ retort. There will be degrees of affordability in between ‘not being able to afford it’ and ‘REALLY MUST having it’.
As me, the athlete, I can afford it but I don’t really see that much more on offer to me to justify the hassle of selling my 935 and then paying a few hundred pound/dollar premium to get the Fenix 5S Plus. However, as me, the5krunner, then buying one is a business necessity.
Reasons to upgrade
If you are moving up from any pre-Fenix 5 device then a fair amount is now there to tempt you. If, for example, you have a Fenix 3HR then you might now be finally tempted to make the move.
If you like the latest, greatest stuff then, let’s face it, you’ve already placed your order and you are just reading this either for a bit of light entertainment OR to find some way of justifying your purchase to your ‘other half’ ;-). I know you too well.!!!
I am more looking here at should the Fenix 5 owner upgrade to the Fenix 5 Plus. Some of these factors, but not all, may be the ones that tempt you.
- For those of you looking at data accuracy then it seems that Galileo has improved GNSS (positioning) performance over GPS or GPS+GLONASS. I’m not yet fully decided on how material that improvement really is and if it matches the Suunto Spartan Sport or Polar V800. Verdict: The jury is out but it looks like they will find in favour of the Fenix 5 Plus with GALILEO. EDIT: as of 22 Jun the Fenix 5 (original) now has GALILEO in beta. That is one reason LESS to upgrade.
- Contactless Payments – The jury is out here to. Although to be fair they’ve just been told to go back and come up with a majority verdict as they couldn’t quite ALL agree. Many people will be looking to see if their bank is supported by the Garmin payment system. If it is, then you are good to go. Here are the supported banks – link to: garmin.com. FWIW I opened a UK Starling bank account (easy) just for the purpose of Fitbit/Garmin payments.
- The true navigators amongst you will have the Fenix 5X or Fenix 5X plus or an accurate non-Garmin equivalent. Navigation appears superficially interesting to many other people but not enough to warrant buying a device just because of it. Now that mapping is on all the Fenix 5 Plus devices it very much becomes a ‘nice to have’.
- HOWEVER, what you may not have quite realised yet is that the map-stuff is going to get real interesting, real soon. By that I mean that Garmin’s apps are being allowed to access maps more and this will mean that there will be very many more location-based services. So your watch will guide you towards that ‘must-have’ Starbucks Latte. Oh !!! and of course you can pay for it with the Fenix without having to go via the ATM.
- For the music lovers amongst you then you will probably be tied to your smartphone for your music-fix whilst running or whilst on your way to work. I looked in-depth at the best running watch with music and the Fenix 5 Plus WILL make its way in there when I get around to adding it.There are pros and cons here for you music lovers and they are mostly practical. Probably YOUR preferred music service will not be supported and so you will keep using your smartphone but others amongst you will simply not want to run with a smartphone and prefer a wire free and simple, battery-charging, 2-device solution of a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus with, for example, some true wireless earbuds (eg Jabra Elite Sport).
- For those of you with a Fenix 5/5S that did not properly connect to some of your external ANT+ sensors then I would remind you that you have a contract with the retailer from which you bought it and, warranty conditions aside, the product needs to be fit for the purpose that it was sold for. Personally, in my humble UK-only opinion, you should get a refund and then be able to put that towards a Fenix 5 Plus. The reality of achieving that will be more complex. Good luck. If you bought via one of my Amazon links (thank you…and sorry at the same time) but at least Amazon are pretty good about these things. Anyway, those connectivity issues should be a thing of the past with the Fenix 5 Plus – Garmin will NOT make that mistake twice.
- as part of the increased connectivity performance Wi-Fi sync is now on all models and this should be supported when used to stream music at home
- For those of you with a Fenix 5X who could not get the greatest of optical HR readings then I am unsure of the extent to which the still-heavy Fenix 5X Plus will improve matters. If you are unsure then, again, Amazon is a good place to try these things out (or use a chest strap or optical armband).
- It looks like there is a new processor. This means that the interface is quicker and smoother and that the Plus series will be more likely to cope with the rigours of CIQ3 apps, maps and other demands
- There are a few niche, new features linked to climb stats and oxygen levels at altitude but that’s just Garmin attacking one of Suunto’s markets with the Fenix 5X Plus, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much if you don’t quite know what I’m talking about.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Summary
There are sufficient new features to justify the price hike to the Fenix 5 Plus from the Fenix 5.
But it’s expensive.
If you can afford it and one of the new features seems at least ‘interesting’; then you know what to do.
If you are not yet a Fenix 5 owner of any kind then this is a great product to jump to. Even if there is a Fenix 6 in 2019 I can’t see it being as big a leap forward as the Fenix 5 Plus is compared to the Fenix 5.
The following Fenix 5 Plus link goes to the lowest price at your local Amazon store and it also SHOULD go through to products sold by Amazon themselves rather than 3rd party resellers. NB You can return those bought directly from Amazon quibble-free within a month, it’s not so esay with Amazon market-place sellers.
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