Garmin Enduro | Hands On | Ultra & Trail-Specific Watch
“It’s just a cheaper Fenix 6X Solar with no music & maps” will come the cry and there’s some truth in that.
OK, there’s a LOT of truth in that. However, I kinda like what I see, let’s start with a summary review of the Enduro and then on to some more detailed background info and a look at the super-new Garmin trail features.
Verdict: Garmin Enduro
Price - 65%65%
Apparent Accuracy - 50%50%
Build Quality & Design - 90%90%
Features, Including App - 95%95%
Openness & Compatability - 95%95%
If you value features over price, this is the best Ultra or Trail running watch you can buy.
The hardware is superbly specified, although only available in a large case size. The most compelling and unique feature is the claimed battery life which is simply the best on the market and gives you literally days of GPS recording life. A notable contributor to the awesome battery life is solar charging which, of course, needs sunlight, although reasonable amounts of sunlight are assumed in the battery life spec.
The only non-monetary problem with this watch is the lack of maps. You absolutely can load and follow a breadcrumb route and that works well enough in an urban area where twists and turns are more obvious. In a forest where your GPS is thrown off, you may suddenly find that a straight line on a clear screen means very little without context.
A proper running watch for a proper trail runner
If you are looking for a ‘smart’ watch then the Enduro is lacking by Garmin’s usual standards and intentionally so. I like how it omits music and this omission gives the watch a sense of throw-back professionalism. A proper running watch for a proper trail runner. The omission of WiFi is mildly annoying and the inclusion of Garmin PAY a nice smart bonus. Of course, you get all the other market-beating Garmin smart features like notifications and incident alerts. In fact, you get every other market-beating Garmin PRO RUNNING feature ever…PacePro, Track Mode, ClimbPro, Physiology Insights, Virtual Run (Zwift Run) Mode, Multisport Modes, Daily Workout Suggestions (running) and more.
- New revamped internal hardware – probably more future-proof than the Fenix 6
- New, better like-for-like battery life than anything that has come before from any manufacturer, ever. 70 hours with GPS, 80 hours with solar+GPS. #Impressive
- New ClimbPro alerts and descent features designed for trail runners
- New VO2max calculations covering trail conditions
- New Ultrarun rest timer
- Run/Walk detection & logging
- Contains every ‘proper’ outdoor, navigation and multisport feature and more besides
- Contains Garmin’s latest physiology insights even covering acclimations to altitude and extreme heat.
- Has Daily Workout Suggestion & Recovery Time
- PacePro to pace your race segments to perfection.
- Support for all outdoor-related features including GRIT and FLOW for MTB riding.
- Awesome connectivity to external sensors and openness to 3rd party sites
- The double-ended velcro/Nylon strap is novel but the single-ended version works best.
- Lack of contextual maps is a problem for some outdoor navigation/races. dwMap is the best workaround.
- Initial GPS & oHR accuracy needs improvement
- Higher battery consumption rates easily happen when extra features are enabled, otherwise impressive. You could realistically get 100 hours or less than 10 hours of GPS if you go crazy on the backlight.
- High price.
Garmin Enduro – Background
Let’s quickly recap what the Enduro is intended for and what’s new.
In a nutshell: It is a Fenix 6X Solar GPS watch with a lightweight strap and improved battery life. It’s a non-pro version and, as such, omits maps, WiFi & music.
It has 3 new software features which are Trail VO2max, Trail rest timers and ClimbPro trail enhancements. These will find their way to Fenix 6, MARQ and 945/745.
- VO2max – it’s difficult to get an accurate VO2max estimation when running trails and VO2max on the trail can still be disabled. The terrain impacts the ability to get a sufficiently long and accurate series of data points for the Fristbeat algorithm. The new algorithm has been modified to understand when you are working harder due to terrain variations over parts of your run ie conditions underfoot rather than elevation which was previously incorporated
- Ultra Run Profile with Trail Rest Timer – this is a minor update to existing ‘pause’ functionalities and it’s designed to account for rest stations on longer runs. Just as in a transition in a triathlon, a trail rest still counts towards the full race time but you might just simply want to see the real amount of time you have spent running.
- ClimbPro Trail enhancements cover flat and downhill sections of your route. You are alerted (via configurable ClimbPro Alerts!) to uphill/downhill sections and now the ClimbPro hill profile is shown for downhills.
- Oh there’s also a tweak to the end-of-training summary screen with weekly summary data
Thus the two Garmin Enduro models we see are highly similar variants to the Fenix 6X Standard & 6X Solar, the difference being they have a lightweight strap and yellow detailing.
The new UltraFit nylon straps are super-light, coming in at just below 6g. However, this is still a fairly heavy watch with an overall weight of 70g. Well, I guess it’s heavy compared to a plastic one but light compared to a metal one and the metal part of the construction is considered important to the perceived need for an ultra/trail watch to be durable.
Garmin Enduro – Racing A Trail Course
You can follow a course that a race organiser might create or you can make your own easily enough from the Garmin Connect mobile app and quickly sync it to your Enduro. You can see the climb profile and also check the popularity of the trail segments on the route and there’s also a nice, pacing feature where you can automatically create different pace targets as the challenges of the course vary with the terrain.
That all looks great on a smartphone but the reality of following a breadcrumb route gives you a feature that is no better than found with competitors like Suunto 9 or Polar Grit X. Sure, you are given the distance to the next turn, your heading and you can control the amount of zoom on the screen but you do not have the context given by a map which helps you orient yourself based on terrain indications around you.
Garmin Enduro – Running with the new ClimbPro descents & alerts
To compensate for the basic routes, Garmin gives you new hill features that offer a customisable alert to signal an approaching hill as well as ascent and descent profiles of all the key hills on the course you are following.
I found that trees tended to throw off the alert feature for an upcoming climb but it didn’t really matter that I was alerted 60m before the ascent rather than 40m.
The climb/descent feature itself is pretty cool and I’ve used the same feature a lot on Garmin’s bike computers. The key hill info is nicely displayed alongside a useful graphic of the profile. It IS a useful feature, however, some of that usefulness is tempered when you are running. Simply put, it is sometimes unwise to keep glancing at a wristwatch when running, with a bike computer it’s a more natural and easy thing to do (in my opinion). That said, seeing the profile and knowing how long until the end are great bits of info.
Garmin Enduro – Trail VO2max
Previously, VO2max was inevitably calculated too low when running on trails. The old calculations didn’t take into account the extra difficulty of trail conditions.
There is now a new calculation for VO2max for the TRAIL running profile where better estimates are made for the terrain, as sensed by the onboard accelerometers.
You can still manually disable the new calculation.
Garmin Enduro – new Rest Timer
A simple way to manually log your time at rest stations.
Coupled with the auto-detection of walking in the run/walk feature then this is a great way to see your true efforts in your post-race analysis.
Garmin Enduro – new Nylon strap
The new Nylon strap is ‘quite’ good.
It differs from similar ones by Coros/Apple as it has velcro-like tabs at either end rather than just one end. I have used this kind of strap a lot and Garmin’s innovation of the double-ended velcro is a retrograde step. But, hey…it’s just a strap.
The strap is slightly harder to get on and more easy to pop out at one end and BANG, you’ve dropped your very expensive watch on the floor. The way Coros, Apple and others work means that it is simply not possible to accidentally drop the watch as the strap cannot come undone.
The big advantage of Garmin’s approach is that the metal pins are not part of the nylon strap. Thus the Enduro is QuickFit compatible and an old QuickFit strap can be easily added on.
Garmin Enduro – Anything else new? Is it the Fenix 6.5?
We don’t know too much here.
The battery has a slightly better capacity (it’s slightly physically larger) and also benefits from improved efficiencies from ‘other components’.
However, the memory available to CIQ is lower than the earlier PRO and PLUS model ie lower than the 6X.
Enduro comes at the end of the Fenix 6/Fenix 6 Solar product cycle. We can expect a Fenix 7 in the fall/autumn of 2021 and, in the past, a minor release with this timing might contain upgraded internal hardware components that are tested out prior to inclusion in the MARQ2 or Fenix 7 – effectively this could be a Fenix 6.5. Improvements to the battery reliability, Solar efficiency and CPU power are plausibly likely but there appear to be no big-ticket items like the latest Sony GNSS chipset nor an Elevate Gen 4 oHR sensor.
Garmin Enduro – Negatives
The initial concerns at launch (Feb 2021) are stability, GNSS accuracy, battery life claims and oHR accuracy.
I’ve put these first negative impressions of Enduro in a separate post. Partly for the sake of completeness, partly because many readers don’t like negativity and partly because Garmin will address many of those points in relatively short order.
Garmin Enduro Headline Specs
- Dimensions: 5.1 x 5.1 x 1.49 cm (Same as 6X)
- Screen: 3.6 cm diameter (1.4″, same as 6X)
- Lighter Weight: 72 gram, the case is 66g or 58g/52g for the steel (6X is 54g titanium case/66g steel case)
- New UltraFit nylon strip (under 6g, 26mm QuickFit compatible)
- Case options DLC coated Titanium (same as an F6X option) plus Stainless steel option (same as F6X option)
- S$/Eu799.99 & US$/Eu899.99 (F6X Solar Pro is $1099)
- Memory 64Mb (DEcreased from F6X 32Gb)
- All CIQ Memory DEcreased eg Datafield is 32768bytes from F6X 131072bytes
- Up to 70/80 hours battery in GPS mode (6X claims 60 hours +6 hours)… improved
- Up to 200/300 hours battery in “max battery, GPS-on mode” (6X claims 120 hours +28 hours)
- Solar cell to recharge the battery Up to 65 days of battery when used as a smartwatch (6X claims 21 days +3 days)
Headline Features, not necessarily new:
- Power Glass Solar charging extends GPS-battery life to 80 hours.
- Power and battery management features can toggle features during the run
- Trail Run VO2max
- Ultrarun rest timer
- ClimbPro trail enhancements (adds descent/flats info)
- Run/Walk detection & logging
- Latest recovery advisor
- Next daily workout suggestions
- Recovery time enhanced by sleep & wellness data
- Compass, barometer and multi-GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)
- Expedition mode sports profile
Enduro has the new Sleep Stage widget! PacePro and Climb Pro REMAIN and require a pre-loaded course
These are removed
Maps & features that require an onboard map including those that are used in golf and ski modes and certain aspects of ClimbPro and PacePro All music features Wi-Fi
Garmin Enduro Battery Life
There are an incredible 70 hours of GPS battery life with an extra 10 hours if sensible sunlight conditions also exist (you could get more)
The following charts show an image of Garmin’s detailed battery life claims and then a chart of battery life I experienced with GPS+GLONASS, some backlight and no sunlight. As you can see, the battery life, can drop dramatically without very careful management. Compare that to a 75 minute run with some sunlight, HRM-PRO, Core Temp Data Field and GPS-only and the battery life is impressively almost constant
Luckily, Garmin provides you with the POWER MANAGER feature where you can turn off/on key features like BLE, NAT+, SpO2 (and more) to save battery. Some of these will make significant improvements to several 10s of per cent increases in battery life.
Garmin Enduro – oHR Accuracy
I’ll add some more images over the next month, this one shows the Enduro’s oHR is essentially OK on long, road-based, steady-state runs. Looking closer the oHR track is not as smooth as it should be and numerous small peaks make the average for the whole track too high (aka ‘wrong’). It’s the same picture for a long, fairly hilly road ride where the small peaks and general ‘noise’ spoil an otherwise acceptable HR track.
Garmin Enduro – GNSS Accuracy
GNSS accuracy with GPS+GLONASS and GPS-only is unacceptable at times. For much of any individual run the track is fine in a normal sense but then craziness ensues, which other reviewers have also found. It’s simply not worth my while spending any more time looking into this until the GNSS firmware is sorted out. If you want accurate pace, get STRYD and don’t rely on GPS/GLONASS.
Garmin Enduro – Is there anything to be excited about?
If you’re in the market for a high-spec, frills-free ultra/trail running watch then a resounding “YES” is the answer.
I guess there might be a new or slightly larger battery and this might share improvements in GNSS that seemed to appear on the 745 and this might support CIQ4. Lotta ‘mights’ there. Though @DCR points out that there is a new platform underneath all of this so we probably are seeing the first sightings of what will form a major part of the Fenix 7/MARQ2
Perhaps you like the larger-format screen to cram more metrics onto? Perhaps you want to properly attach your device to a Windows PC as a drive letter (MTP music devices don’t do that, Enduro will), perhaps your 945 has a somewhat strangely performing battery and you hope that a newer model has fixed it, perhaps you like the velcro-Esque strap.
If any of those tickle your fancy then get your AMEX card out and get spending. Actually, ALL those reasons plus the Enduro’s ability to be a fully-featured triathlon watch are the reasons why I’m going to get one. But, to all intents and purposes, YES – it is just a slightly cheaper non-Pro Fenix 6X Solar with a new strap.
Buy a Garmin Enduro, here are the prices and links to retailers
- Enduro Steel with Gray Ultrafit Nylon Strap – US$/Eu799.99, £700
- Enduro Carbon Gray Diamon-Like Coating (DLC) Titanium bezel with black Ultrafit Nylon Strap – US$/Eu899.99, £800
Garmin Enduro: Buy a Garmin Enduro HERE when available from one of my partners (or from the blue banner below).