Garmin Fenix 3 – First Impressions from CES 2015
Sports watches have tended to be a little lacking in the looks department, to the point where you really have to be dedicated to use them as everyday watches. That’s something Garmin’s been trying to fix with its Fenix line of watches, and the latest version, the Garmin Fenix 3, is the best-looking and best-equipped yet.
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Garmin Fenix 3 – Design
This watch’s overall vibe is of a slightly chunkier, more rugged fashion watch than a sporting accessory. It’s all machined metal and muted colours, with a matching metal band really finishing off the look. More striking plastic straps are also available if you like that look, or want to save a few pennies.
The Fenix 3 is available for $499 with either a silver or grey bezel, and also with the option of a sapphire crystal screen for $599, which should make it more scratch resistant.
While it features a screen, in contrast to all these new-fangled smartwatches the Fenix 3’s isn’t a touchscreen, and instead the watch relies on an array of chunky, easy-to-reach buttons around its sides for navigation. Having struggled to flick and swipe our way through countless smartwatch interfaces recently, to find a well-thought-out, robust interface like this is such a relief.
The screen is a colour LCD, but rather than aiming for slick animated interfaces, the colour aspect is used for adding simple details such as a green flashing triangle when you start and a red flashing square when you stop, along with basic colouring for maps and other icons.
Primarily, though, the interface is tuned for usability, so while it does have a backlight for the LCD it’s also optimised for easy viewing in bright sunlight, again unlike so many new smartwatches.
Garmin Fenix 3 – Features
Although the tweaked design is key to the appeal of the Fenix 3, what really makes it a contender for serious outdoor sport enthusiasts is its upgraded feature list.
Essentially this watch now has all the features of the flagship Forerunner 920XT. On the physical front this includes an upgraded screen resolution – from 70 x 70 pixels to 218 x 218 – the addition of Wi-Fi for easy workout uploads, an improved GPS chip with GLONASS support, and slightly improved battery life, with 6 weeks of standby compared to the Fenix 2’s 5 weeks. It also has improved waterproofing down to 10ATM (100m) compared to 5ATM (50m) for the Fenix 2 and 920XT.
There are also a host of software additions, including a daily activity tracker, Connect IQ support for downloading new watch faces and such, virtual racer, metronome, cycling VO2 max, multiple bike sensors and much more. To compare for yourself, you can see the full list of features on the Garmin website: Garmin Fenix 2, Garmin Fenix 3, Garmin Forerunner 920XT.
With only a few minutes on the show floor at CES 2015 to try the Garmin Fenix 3, it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions. However, what we can say is that Garmin has very nearly nailed the design – this is a lovely looking watch, especially with that metal bracelet.
The feature list and hardware improvements certainly stand it in good stead, too. Unfortunately, all these plus points do come with a downside – the hiked price. The Fenix 3 is $100 more than the Fenix 2 and $50 more than the Forerunner 920XT, making it less an upgrade than a different device altogether.
Still, if you’re after the ultimate marriage of style and substance in a watch, the Fenix 3, along with the Withings Activité, looks set to be one of the top choices.