Garmin Fenix 7 Review
Shorter than normal, here’s a quick review of the all-new Garmin Fenix 7 getting straight to the key points, the first of which is that the Garmin Fenix 7 is the best sports watch ever made, although lovers of a pretty screen will agree with this review and acclaim the Garmin Epix 2 as the best ever.
Garmin sells millions of Fenix watches and at up to about $1,000 a watch, that’s a lot of money in total. So much money and so much profit that Garmin easily affords to re-invest significant chunks of it in R&D. As a result, every year you get a steady stream of new features and every two years, or so, you get a mostly new watch on the inside that just so happens to look very similar to the previous one on the outside.
This year is no different, although Covid has made us wait a little longer than we would have liked.
The Garmin Fēnix 7 is the best ever and it is worth the upgrade if you have a Fenix 5 Plus or older, or from any other Garmin watch. Even with a Fēnix 6, you should be tempted to upgrade too but it’s not so clear-cut there.
It’s an expensive leap if you want to change to Garmin from your Coros Vertix 2, Suunto 9 Peak or Polar Grit X watch but there’s no real point in doing that unless you are really missing something important to you in your current watch.
Garmin Fēnix 7 – What’s New?
I’m excited about this. Garmin has done more than enough to get me to buy the Fenix 7.
No Garmin freebies here folks, I buy my own.
Despite looking the same, it’s the hardware that makes up most of the changes that enable greater levels of performance – from a longer-lasting battery to a better heart rate monitor and a better GPS chip. The meaningful sports software features are the same as the Fenix 6 but with a few extra nuggets.
That’s normally the end of the one-paragraph summary. Except today’s announcement also marks major moves forward for Garmin, this time in a new direction. Firstly, the Garmin Connect mobile platform is changing to allow settings to be made on the phone rather than on the device. Secondly, the Fenix menus and screens are improved in numerous places. These might sound trivial to you but it shows that Garmin is finally addressing its Achilles heel USABILITY. It was crazy buying the most-featured watch ever but being unable to either find or understand the features you paid for. That’s now significantly positively changing for the better.
Verdict: Clearly the best outdoor, multisport watch ever.
Price - 70%70%
Apparent Accuracy - 87%87%
Build Quality & Design - 90%90%
Features, Including App - 99%99%
Openness & Compatability - 98%98%
Garmin’s Fenix 7 is the most advanced multi-sports & expedition watch to date, but it includes the widest possible range of tools for athletes in virtually any sporting discipline.
New & existing stats like VO2max, lactate threshold detection, stamina, training load and training focus are but a few of the many gems that are well-presented and straightforward to interpret.
For once, a touchscreen is added that boosts general usability rather than hindering your sports performance where others become responsive in the wet. But you still won’t miss the 5-buttons if that’s what you prefer.
Battery life is ridiculously good to the point where you will be enabling every last feature just to try to prove Garmin’s claims wrong.
The new touchscreen is a bonus for browsing through menus, though fans of the Fenix series’ five-button navigation can choose to disable it and stick with what they know. Battery life has received a big boost with no added weight, and mapping tools are greatly enhanced. The only conspicuous absence is a microphone for using your phone’s voice assistant and taking calls, but hopefully, that will come in a future Fenix 7 Plus edition.
- It really does everything a sports watch ever needs to do, as a tech-laden performance triathlete I can vouch for that. Garmin is the make-sure watch to make sure you have every feature.
- Durable for adventures and light enough for serious sports
- Size, solar, sapphire screen ruggedness and beautiful screen (Epix 2) options include everyone
- Comprehensive, free global maps
- Connects to every sports sensor…ever
- Free training plans and links to all the leading training platforms
- Usability has markedly improved but Garmin must continue the journey to further improve
- No pinch zoom on the maps? Really? Garmin will probably add this as it’s such a glaring omission
- It doesn’t work as well with the connected smarts of your phone but it’s a sports tool first and foremost.
- £$£$£$£ – it all comes at a price
Let’s crack on with the new highlights. The Garmin Fenix 7 review will come later and cover in more detail what new Fēnix owners need to consider.
Key Talking Points
- New Garmin Elevate Gen 4 optical heart rate monitor – more accurate and more battery-friendly than before. SpO2? You got it. HRV? You got it. EKG/ECG? Hmmm not yet.
- Latest internal architecture – A complicated way of saying it’s faster, better and more future-proofed for Garmin apps (CIQ).
- Larger Solar cell area – Giving a c15% bigger solar boost than before.
- Better Battery Life – Ignoring Solar, battery lives are c25% better across the range.
- New red/white LED light (Fenix 7X only)
- New Touchscreens – Touchscreens are standard on every model, you can disable them but you will want to use them when interacting with menus and maps. No pinch-zoom though.
- AMOLED Model – There is a new AMOLED model called Epix Gen 2. It has a very pretty screen and shorter battery life, otherwise, it’s the same as F7.
- When compared to Fenix 6 and 6 Pro, all Fenix 7 models are effectively PRO models in the sense that they come with Music (inc Spotify), Multi-Continent Topo Maps, Payments & WiFi.
- Sapphire models – have twice the storage (for pre-loaded maps) and also only the Sapphire models support dual-frequency GNSS
- New Airoha/MediaTek GNSS/GPS Chip – Multi-Constellation (all models), Dual-Frequency GNSS/GPS (Sapphire only models) is the next step for Garmin toward better positional accuracy. Maximum accuracy settings approximately halve battery life.
- Numerous aesthetic changes are made to the watch interface and, surprise! they’re generally pretty good.
- Real-time settings sync – Make changes to watch settings on the Connect app, ability to configure and hide groups of settings on the smartphone app. #Sweet
- Limited Garmin CIQ Store on the watch
- CIQ now supports data from VO2max, Stress & Body Battery. CIQ ‘4’ (API level 4.0.0) is used.
- Also added are several new Fenix 6 features like a HIIT sport profile and on-screen animations
- Just to remind you also get these and more: smart trainer control; PacePro; round trip route creator; trendline popularity routing; VO2max for the trails; daily workout suggestions; recovery advisor; many performance metrics; ABC sensors; battery power manager; body battery; advanced sleep tracking; respiration metrics; hydration tracking; and app notifications.
Here are the new, key sports-related features
- New Stamina Metric which gives you live insights into the depletion of your remaining energy reserves. I’ve found it reasonably useful but others report a large degree of inaccuracy in predicting what they really had left in the tank at the need of the race.
- Visual Race Predictor – Historical trend data for finish times of your target distance as you get fitter.
- UP-AHEAD – Information on upcoming POIs along your route eg distance to aid station, fuel station, finish, checkpoint.
- SKIVIEW Maps – 2000 ski destinations
- Health Monitoring Activity (Wellness feature) – Quickly track daily biometric/wellness trends
Accuracy – Is The Garmin Fenix 7 Accurate?
The GPS-only mode is perfectly accurate for painting that pretty picture on Strava and the new All-Constellations GNSS mode is more accurate than that, in fact, it’s pretty good on the accuracy front and compares well enough to any other watch. You still won’t get a perfect GPS track and distance/pace will be incorrect in difficult reception conditions just like pretty much all other GPS sports watches…buy a footpod, like Stryd, for super accuracy.
I’ve not yet completed the new dual-frequency tests but this post gives an interesting look at GPS vs All Constellation accuracy if you want to read more detail.
I’ve been slightly disappointed with the latest optical HR from Garmin. I could equally show you bad tracks and good tracks. It doesn’t really matter as optical HR performance varies by individual and I just happen to be a bad case…you may be too…or not. If you want super-accuracy then buy the excellent Garmin HRM-PRO/TRI strap.
I’ve found resting HR and overnight HRV to be little different to what Garmin has given us before. ie it seems accurate enough.
Finally, elevation tracks have been especially good for me. I think the trick here is to enter a manual elevation outside your front door and then forevermore Garmin will always use a starting calibration based on that before you head off on a workout.
Garmin Fenix 7 – Key Specs & Options
|Garmin Fenix 7S (small)||Garmin Fenix 7 (normal size)||Garmin Fenix 7X (big)|
|Resolution||240x240px @200PPI||260x260px @200PPI||280x280px @200PPI|
|GPS Hours (+Solar)||37h (+9h)||57h (+16)||89 (+32h)|
|Non-Solar, Solar, Sapphire+Solar, Sapphire Solar Titanium||Non-Solar, Solar, Sapphire+Solar, Sapphire Solar Titanium||Solar, Sapphire+Solar, Sapphire Solar Titanium|
|various colour & band colour options||various colour & band colour options||Solar Titanium: Blue, Black/Grey DLC coating|
Garmin Fenix 7 vs Garmin Fenix 6 – Should I upgrade?
It’s probably not really worth the upgrade as the Fenix 6 is a perfectly fine watch. However the Fenix 7 IS notably better and whilst you won’t notice too much difference in the featureset you will notice a smoother, faster watch that’s packed full of upgraded bits that enhance your sporting experiences.
Particularly I like the ability to make settings on the smartphone and the improved menus on the watch. It’s just more intuitive and quicker and cleaner to use.
Is it more accurate? Nah, not really! I mean it is more accurate but you probably won’t notice its improved accuracy when compared to other watches. That said my F6Pro has not too great GPS, so maybe you will.
Garmin Fenix 7 vs Garmin Forerunner 945, 935 – Should I upgrade
The Forerunner 945 was essentially a plastic Fenix 6 aka a lightweight, sporty one. Hold tight and don’t upgrade yet as a Forerunner 955 is due very, very soon. It’ll probably have a new feature or two even compared to the Fenix 7 but don’t worry, they will eventually get rolled out to the Fenix 7 this year.
Garmin Fenix 7 vs Apple Watch 7 – Which is best
I use my Apple Watch 7 as my 24×7 watch it simply has better and much deeper integration with an Apple iPhone. It’s pretty too. The restricted battery life of the Apple makes it a no-go-zone for some multi-day adventurers. But even then a decent Apple app or two, a sturdy strap and the judicious use of a battery pack will mean that casual adventurers will be fine with the Apple.
I guess though, with the Garmin it’s just all there on the watch/app. Whereas with Apple’s Watch you will have to spend hours searching for apps.
That said, the Apple Watch is bizarrely slightly more accurate for both GPS and heart rate. Who would have thought that? But it is.
For sports though, I would ALWAYS use a sports-focused watch like a Forerunner or Fenix. So if you consider yourself a wannabe athlete, you know what to do. Go Garmin
Garmin Fenix 7 Opinion
I love highly capable sports watches and Garmin Fenix 7 undoubtedly gives me that.
In the round, Fēnix 7 is simply a better piece of sports kit than anything out there. But that comes at a significant cost that will deter the faint-hearted. Sure you can wait for prices to fall but as we’ve only recently seen with the Fenix 6, waiting for the more significant price falls could keep you waiting for 2 more years.
If you are looking for new navigational or sports features then you will probably be a little disappointed. There is little to see in those respects.
Fear not. More features will follow in 2022/23. Sure the Fenix 6 will also get most of them but the older your existing Fenix, the less likely it will be given the newer feature or, indeed, it may simply be unable to run them.
As a Garmin user for over 10 years, I know exactly what to expect from Garmin’s sporting prowess and it is comprehensively good, Fenix has ALL of that goodness.
So what excites me the most are the performance and benefits offered by an optional touchscreen plus the high-resolution screen of the Epix Gen 2 version. A quality screen and improved interface finally move the Fēnix closer to the smartwatch superiority of the Apple Watch.
Garmin Fenix 7 Pricing
Adding Solar, Sapphire and Titanium each bumps up the prices. You should seriously consider sapphire to protect the lens plus Sapphire is the ONLY way to get the dual-frequency, multi-constellation GNSS goodness.
- Fenix 7/7S – prices start at $/Eu700 (£600) up to $/Eu1000 (£860)
- Fenix 7X – prices from $/Eu900 (£779) to $/Eu1100 (£1050)
- Garmin Epix 2 – prices from £800/$900/Eu900 to £900/$1000/Eu1000
I recommend Garmin, Wiggle, BackCountry or REI where first-time customers are usually prompted to get a 15% joining discount/bonus. Nice, if you can get it. This single link automatically clicks to a choice of retail stores in your country eg Wiggle, PowerMeterCity, Amazon, REI, B&H, Walmart, Competitive Cyclist & Backcountry
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