The Garmin Fenix 3 is a fantastic watch aimed at runners – amateurs and professionals alike. It’s really big when compared to any other runner’s watch on the market. It’s super expensive as well.
Its hefty price tag is there for a reason – quality.
The Garmin Fenix 3 offers prime GPS tracking for cyclists and runners, along with particular system-modes for other athletics – like skiing for example. It has its own notification system and its very own app store.
This means that you don’t need to buy a fitness tracker and a smartwatch – the Garmin Fenix 3 is both at the same time. Sure, it’s not an Apple Watch or an Android Wear replacement, but it tries its darnedest to be one.
Speaking of enthusiastic exercise fitness tracker, the Fenix 3 completely obliterates its competition.
Garmin Fenix 3 Review
It has an excellent battery life with a hard-wearing frame. The watch’s GPS tracking system is versatile and reliable. UI is perfectly designed – easy to use and quick, with no lag present.
Yet, it’s really expensive. The Garmin is a big and bulky serious runner’s watch, which might be a deal breaker to some athletes.
Read below if the Garmin Fenix 3 is comfortable to wear and if it’s worth buying.
Garmin Fenix 3 price – $499.
Garmin Fenix 3 specifications
- 20 hour GPS stamina;
- Stainless steel rim;
- GPS with GLONASS.
Design and Screen
The Garmin Fenix 3’s main competitor is the 920XT Forerunner, which is smaller and sports a square-faced design. Also, unlike the 920XT, which is dedicated for marathon runners, the Garmin is a more versatile watch.
Arguably, it’s one of the best outdoors watch on the market right now. It has special modes for skiing, cycling, swimming, running and hiking. Design-wise, it’s as bulky as an outdoor smartwatch can get – it can engulf the wrist of even the manliest lumberjack. It’s larger than the Fenix 2.
We at AFP are against calling gadgets specifically developed for males, or females, but the Garmin clearly is designed with the male congregation in mind. It has a face that bulges 16.7 millimeters from your wrist.
However, regardless of its intimidating size, the Fenix 3 is a comfortable wear. It’s not as lightweight and forgettable as the Vivoactive. It’s worth noting that going through the day with the watch strapped on your wrist won’t make your hand fall off.
Many users have reported that they completely forgot that they were wearing the Garmin Fenix 3 – some even went to sleep with it. Yet, I don’t recommend doing so. I don’t know what kind of man-bears have been wearing the Fenix 3, but you seriously can’t sleep with it.
Its face is bigger than your average watch and it will get in your way every single time – more so, if God blessed you with petite hands like mine.
It’s waterproof to up to 100 meters and it has a diver’s watch style. It appeals more to me rather than the traditional mini-computer look. Also, even though it seems like it’s build entirely out of metal, it isn’t. Only the buttons and the rim are of metal descent. The rest is made out of plastic.
But that plastic is incredibly tough and sturdy. It’s clearly a-grade material and the fibre-reinforced polymer makes it feel very fancy – just for the wearer though. Your friends won’t care what your watch is made out of, they’ll see its chunky size and they’ll think you robbed Iron Man of his arc reactor.
Unfortunately, you’ll be disappointed time and time again because the Garmin Fenix 3 is a scratch magnet. It looks bad-ass, but even the tinniest scratch seems to be absorbed by the watch’s face.
Other tech reviewers have reported this issue and a more horrid one as well. I’m not saying this is a wide spread problem, but it’s one that surfaced among reviewers. Some have been shipped watches that were already scratched – nobody knows if it’s a factory-known issue, or if the one’s in charge with delivery screwed something along the process.
Consumers haven’t reported anything like this.
It unlikely sports Corning G-Glass 4, because it scratches too easy. Yet, Garmin hasn’t really specified what kind of glass protection they built their watch with. When we find out, we’ll be sure to update this article accordingly.
However, Garmin makes a Sapphire Crystal Fenix 3, which is a hardened model. Basically, it has another layer of protection. But with that layer of protection comes great responsibility – and a bigger price tag too. The Sapphire Crystal Fenix 3 costs $599.99. It also comes packed with a metal link strap in case the default one breaks, or you lose it on your morning run.
I recommend you stay with the rubber one because the metal link strap adds more weight to the watch. If you thought that it was hefty before, wait until you try the metal galore model. The normal strap doesn’t have a clap. It’s the standard that works perfectly. It has holes across the whole band that serve ventilation purposes.
Coming back to the watch’s face, the screen resembles the one found on the Vivoactive Garmin. It’s an LCD panel that doesn’t consume that much power and it outputs some pretty great colors.
But it doesn’t have that rich color palette as the Apple Watch, nor the one you might find in the LG Urbane. Indeed, you won’t find deep and full of life visuals, but it serves the watch more to be somewhat dark and gritty. Especially when viewing graphs and the likes.
The screen is not flashy in any way and the E Ink screen of a Kindle comes to mind when using the Fenix 3. This means that it consumes little power and it can stay on twenty four seven. The big downside is, however, that you can’t recognize anything on the watch’s screen without some sort of ambient light present.
A watch light comes built in and you can turn it on by pressing its specific button on the side. But even with the light on, contrast is disappointing and it lacks clarity. In some scenarios, like low indoor lighting you’ll force yourself to understand what you’re seeing on the screen.
Regardless, it’s a pretty great watch screen that functions all the time and it doesn’t kill the battery in one day.
The watch’s battery is hands down exquisite. Reports have shown that after a week of using it for the usual fitness tracking, notifications and, basically, to tell time, the Fenix was left with 60% juice.
We concur – after a week of using the Garmin Fenix watch, its battery life displayed exactly 60%.
These are great results considering that your average fitness tracker doesn’t last more than a week – and frankly, nor does a smartwatch for that matter.
According to the company that made it, the watch can last up to twenty hours with GPS tracking on, and about fifty hours of hiking tracking. If you use it just as an old watch, then it’ll last five weeks on a single charge.
You won’t find a touchscreen embedded on the Fenix’s face, nor does it feature gestures a la Apple Watch. It’s designed to feel exactly like your average watch. You can access its interface by pressing a button.
Remember that old button-operated navigation that meant that you have to push up or down buttons to get to a particular menu? Yup, that’s what you’ll use to navigate the Fenix 3.
I really love this old-school system. Why? Well because it’s so well constructed. When you push a button you are met with a crunchy and clickety-click-click feel/sound.
On the front of the watch face, on its right side, you have the start button. Press it so the activities menu opens up. Below you’ll find the installed by default apps and activities. When you install a new app or activity, this is where you’ll find it.
- Find Phone – this means that the paired phone will ring;
- HR Chart;
- Pool Swim;
- Open-Water Swim;
- Indoor Bike;
- Indoor Run;
- Trail Run;
- Cross-Country Ski;
- Ski or Snowboard;
After you’ve decided what you want to do for the evening, pick an activity and press the start button again. This will signal the Fenix 3 and it will begin tracking. The company has put some safety measures in place so you don’t accidentally turn it off mid-exercise and lose all your precious data. You need to long-pres the up button if you want to see more options.
It’s a basic interface, but it fits this type of device.
You look for and install apps using the Connect IQ store. This is Garmin’s proprietary app store that can be found within Garmin Connect – which is mainly used to review your exercise routines and other data.
From Garmin’s store you can download distinct watch faces. Some of these even come with brand new apps and games. Though, gaming on the Garmin Fenix 3 isn’t really that recommended – it’s boring, to say the least.
Unfortunately, a feature present within the last gen Fenix is missing. Users don’t have the ability to watch a map of their exact location directly from the watch. Why would Garmin remove such a fantastic feature? It’s because the company launched the Garmin Epix.
The Garmin Epix is more expensive than the Fenix 3, but just slightly, and it comes with a built-in 8 gig storage so users can download maps.
The Epix isn’t worth considering. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi, and users have reported that it’s super-buggy. More so, I don’t recommend it because Garmin just wants to milk the cow on this.
Performance and Tracking
The Fenix 3 is GPS capable and thanks to a variety of sensors, it can precisely keep track of your exercise. Packed deep within the watch you’ll find the much needed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features. The accelerometer, the altimeter and barometer are tucked nicely inside the Fenix as well.
Also helping the standard GPS, is GLONASS. It stands for Global Navigation Satellite System, a Russian made GPS. GLONASS is built inside the Fenix 3 so it offers more precise, accurate data.
All of the Fenix’s sensors help the watch track marathons and long-lasting cycle sessions without needing the help of smartphone.
But, if you really want to get the most bang out of your buck, you need to buy some accessories. Think of acquiring an HR sensor – mainly because the watch doesn’t come with one.
The Garmin functions perfectly with non-Garmin accessories. The Fenix is ANT+ standard compatible. This means that the majority of accessories will work.
The Garmin Fenix 3 is a serious fitness tracker, but it doesn’t compete with the likes of Apple Watch, Pebble Time or any other Android Wear watch. It just doesn’t have great smartwatch capabilities.
And that’s not a bad thing.
You see, the Fenix 3 can tap into your iOS or Android smartphone’s notification stream and it let’s you read messages and emails. However, I’ve experienced some pairing issues. No lag whatsoever, but problems with disconnects. This means that notifications just stop coming to your watch.
It depends on what smartphone you are using, to be honest. Paired with the the Motorola Moto X Play, the Garmin didn’t disconnected once. Yet, when used with Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6 Edge+, the watch disconnected more often than not.
There are a ton of apps to download such as weather reports, a few games here and there and multi-time zone watch faces. At the current moment, there are about 50 or so apps that you can download for the Fenix 3.
It’s a superb watch for the exercise addict. It has an excellent battery life and a ton of features and capabilities. Yet, it’s expensive. But when you compare it with Apple’s smartwatch, it suddenly gains a lot more authority in the matter.
It has its very own app store with a strong ecosystem and there’s arguably no other fitness tracker on the market that can beat the Fenix’s functionality.
But, what about its competitors? The Forerunner 920XT has fewer features, but it’s way more cheaper. The Garmin Epix just doesn’t make the cut because it doesn’t have Wi-Fi and users have reported a lot of bugs.
Why can’t Garmin just blend everything into one little fitness tracker and get this over with?
Anyway, the Garmin Fenix 3 is a fantastic fitness tracker that costs $499.99. I wholeheartedly recommend it.